Incentives required to improve employee healthcare benefits

The majority of employers would like to see tax breaks introduced in order to encourage firms to invest in private medical insurance, new research argues.

More than 1,000 HR executives were polled by healthcare provider Simplyhealth and more than half of this sample agreed with the idea that all companies should be given tax breaks to encourage them to provide health insurance for their entire staff.

The findings come in the wake of last November’s independent sickness absence review by national director for health and work Dame Carol Black and former British Chambers of Commerce director general David Frost, which recommended that “incentives” be put in place to encourage more investment in workplace health.

Simplyhealth spokesperson Howard Hughes said: “Our research shows that 40% of organisations currently offer employees private medical insurance, however, 46% of these businesses only provide it as a benefit to senior or middle management.

“Our findings confirm that there is appetite for a new approach to employee health and wellbeing. Fifty two per cent of respondents whose businesses only offer private medical insurance to some employees stated that they would be more likely to provide a private medical insurance benefit to all employees if organisations received a tax break for those employees who are standard-rate tax payers,” he added.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) chief medical adviser, meanwhile, has said that the Government will consider the issue of such tax breaks, but it will not be rushed into making any decision.

The concession by the DWP’s Dr Bill Gunnyeon was made at a conference organised by the Association of British Insurers in January.

“At any conference I have been to, it is one of the things that employers have consistently raised and I understand that,” said Gunnyeon in the magazine Health Insurance. “But I’m not making any promises.”

He continued: “We must make sure that we do not just implement a series of recommendations in isolation but make sure it turns into a joined-up system.”

Having completed the absence review, Black announced in December 2011 that she would now be stepping down as national director for health and work.

Her five-year tenure has been marked by landmark publications, including 2008’s Working for a healthier tomorrow and the latest sickness absence review.

However, she will not be lost to the profession as she confirmed that she has agreed to become an expert adviser on health and work to the Department of Health.

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