Tax exemption for occupational health could boost wellbeing
Rachel Muller-Heyndyk, June 17, 2019
The John Lewis Partnership has called on the government to make all occupational health services tax-free, to encourage employer investment in workers' health
The total cost for UK businesses of absenteeism and reduced productivity due to mental health and musculoskeletal conditions could be as much as £87.8 billion by 2025, according to a report by the John Lewis Partnership. This is a £14 billion increase from today’s rate of £73.8 billion.
The Working Well Report, which includes research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research and YouGov, showed that UK businesses could save an estimated £38.1 billion by 2025 by investing in early clinical interventions for musculoskeletal and mental health conditions, reducing the cost of absenteeism and productivity.
Nearly half (47%) of UK workers in the report’s YouGov survey stated they had gone to work while experiencing a mental health condition in the past 12 months. More than half (52%) had done the same for a musculoskeletal condition.
But even though people are going to work, 40% said the state of their mental health greatly affected their ability to do a good job and be productive, and 29% said the same for a physical health condition.
One in five workers surveyed (21%) disagreed that their employer would support them if they were unwell because of a physical health condition, and this increased to 29% if they were experiencing a mental health condition.
Almost a third (30%) also said their employer does not currently offer any health and wellbeing support or services.
Yet, employer support was found to be highly important to employees.
More than four in five (83%) employees said that if they felt supported at work they could recover more quickly from a physical or mental health condition, helping to reduce the cost of absenteeism and productivity. Free health and wellbeing services are also deemed more important for an employer to offer than subsidised or free food and drink, with 38% of employees citing the former as important, compared with 17% for the latter.
Meanwhile, 64% said it would have a positive influence on their decision to apply for a job if the company offered employees health and wellbeing services. More than three-quarters (77%) believe that offering tax relief to businesses to allow them to invest more money in health and wellbeing services is a good idea.
In response to the research, the John Lewis Partnership called on the government to make all occupational health services fully exempt from taxation.
The company said it is working with large and small employers, clinicians, and health and wellbeing charities to share best practice on employee health and wellbeing, and to encourage more investment.
Tracey Killen, partner and director of personnel at the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Having a supportive employer that promotes employee health and wellbeing can make a real difference to someone grappling with a physical or mental health condition and their recovery. For business, a healthy engaged workforce can boost performance and productivity. The report highlights that if employers, health experts and the government all work together we can achieve great things for the UK economy, businesses and workers.”
The John Lewis Partnership surveyed 1,017 UK workers and analysed data from YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.