EU offers tax sweetener to reduce accidents at work

Employers with good workplace safety records could pay less tax and win more government contracts under new EU plans.


MEPs in Strasbourg voted last week in favour of a five-year strategy to reduce accidents at work through a range of measures, including financial incentives.


The UK government now has to report back to the European Parliament on how it will implement the policy, which calls for tax and public sector procurement enticements.


Glenis Willmott, the East Midlands MEP who drafted the EU policy, told Personnel Today: “This strategy calls for a carrot-and-stick regime, so companies with good health and safety records should have preference in state tenders, and member states should look at giving them tax rebates.”


Tougher sanctions are also proposed for firms with poor safety records as the EU bids to reduce workplace accidents by 25% over five years. “Hopefully this policy will make a big difference to people at work,” said Willmott.


“One person dies in the EU every three-and-a-half minutes in a workplace accident. People have to be held accountable.”


The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, which represents health and safety professionals, backed the proposals.


Richard Jones, director of technical affairs, said: “We broadly welcome the European Parliament’s recognition that there is a place for economic incentives to encourage better occupational safety and health performance.


“The only note of caution would be a need for checks in the system to ensure that organisations are not simply under-reporting injuries and ill health to enhance their performance record.”


The British Chambers of Commerce said the move could complicate the tax system and make it harder for small firms to win contracts.


The EU policy also calls for tougher laws on working hours for pregnant women, flexibility for ageing workers, and a new directive on musculoskeletal disorders.


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