Chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt has conceded that maintaining a healthy workforce is “crucial” to ensuring and maximising productivity growth and acknowledged the soarding numbers of people out of work due to long-term sickness.
The former health secretary’s comments follow release of two government consultations aimed at increasing uptake of occupational health offerings to improve employee health following commitments to do so in the Spring Budget.
In the first of these consultations HM Treasury is asking for the public to make the case for tax relief on workplace private medical insurance (PMI) schemes, although it does not see the benefit itself.
The second joint consultation between the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) aims to encourage take-up of occupational health to help employees access vital mental and physical health support at work, particularly for those working in small and medium-sized enterprises.
In the Treasury consultation, Hunt (pictured) said: “The number of people not working in the UK due to long-term sickness specifically has reached a record high. Typically, for every 13 people currently working, one person is long-term sick.
“Maintaining workforce participation is crucial to ensure that we have enough workers to support the future needs of the UK, and maximise productivity growth,” Hunt added.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with stakeholders to determine whether, as part of a package of policies on occupational health, there is a case for providing further support to employers through the tax system or through alternative tax incentives, and the impact of such incentives on different groups of businesses.”
Office for National Statistics latest data puts the number of people not working due to being long-term sick at 412,329.