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Health at Work report recommends employee assistance programmes should retain tax exemptions

The independent sickness absence review recommended that employee assistance programmes retain their tax exemptions.

The 'Health at Work - an independent review of sickness absence' report by Dame Carol Black and David Frost, published yesterday, recommends the retention of the existing tax relief on employee assistance programmes (EAPs).

The news comes following March's Budget Statement, when the chancellor classified EAPs as an employee benefit and, as such, exempt from tax relief.

Commenting on the latest advice from Frost and Black, David Smith, chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (UK EAPA), said: "EAPs are extremely effective when it comes to supporting employee attendance and thereby contribute positively to reducing absence in the workplace. They are important strategic interventions that have a specific workplace focus. By concentrating on early intervention and enabling employees to resolve day- to-day issues that can affect their productivity and performance at work, EAPs are vital to the health of organisations and their employees."

"Over 10 million employees in the UK have access to EAP services and this report rightly acknowledges that EAPs have expanded in recent years and are now commonly offered by organisations. Given their reach and impact, taxing EAPs would be a significant disincentive for employers to offer this type of support and service and would certainly have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the workforce. As an Association we welcome the findings of this Review and its recommendations that existing tax relief of EAPs be retained.

"We look forward to confirmation from Government that they will be accepted."