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In yesterday’s Spring Budget, the government announced plans to roll out an Occupational Health (OH) subsidy pilot to support SMEs in England to include a consultation on increasing Occupational Health coverage and tax incentives.

Issues facing SMEs

With only around half of UK employees currently having access to Occupational Health services, which is lower than some international comparators, the number of UK workers off work due to long-term sickness has reached record levels – the highest since records began in 1993.

Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that there were 2.52 million people off work due to long-term sickness.

In addition to this, according to HSE, every year, in food and drink manufacture, around 19,000 workers (nearly 5% of the workforce) suffer from ill health caused or made worse by work.

Almost 60% of occupational ill health involves musculoskeletal injury such as back injury from repetitive lifting or work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs) from repetitive tasks. Occupational asthma and rhinitis, related mainly to exposure to flour and bakery dusts, causes around 8% of ill health followed by occupational dermatitis (4%) and noise-induced hearing loss (1%).

Statistics released by HSE highlighted that more than 11 million working days were lost to work-related stress in all industries in 2008, costing businesses an estimated £4 billion.

What measures will be put in place for SMEs?

Embedding tailored employment support within mental health and musculoskeletal (MSK) services in England, including scaling up MSK hubs in the community.

Digitising the NHS Health Check to identify and prevent more cases of cardiovascular disease

Ensuring NHS resources including apps for managing mental health and MSK conditions are readily available, so that more people can access support quickly.

Piloting a new ‘WorkWell’ programme to better integrate employment and health

Announcement of further support for R&D intensive Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), via an enhanced rate of tax relief for loss making companies; and for the UK’s world leading creative industries, through increased audio-visual tax reliefs.

Launching the refocused Investment Zones programme to catalyse 12 growth clusters across the

Each English Investment Zone will have access to interventions worth £80 million over five years, including tax reliefs and grant funding.

– The roll out of new Levelling Up Partnerships, providing over £400 million of investment in 20 areas across England.

Introduce policies that encourage employers to support people back into work, to work more, and to prevent them falling out of work.

Why is staying in work and growing the economy so important?

Economic growth increases living standards, supports higher paid jobs, and strengthens the public finances. Spring Budget begins to implement the Chancellor’s strategy to deliver long term sustainable growth, focusing on four key priorities: Employment, Education, Enterprise and Everywhere.

The OBR is now forecasting the UK economy will avoid a recession and, supported by action taken at the Spring Budget, GDP is higher in the medium term.

Increasing employment raises living standards and helps businesses grow. While unemployment is at a near 50- year low, since the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a significant increase in the number of people neither in nor looking for work, with 6.7 million of the working age population economically inactive, excluding students.

Spring Budget announces a comprehensive employment package focused on four groups: the long- term sick and disabled, welfare recipients and the unemployed, older workers, and parents. The OBR expects this package to result in 110,000 more individuals in the labour market by the end of the forecast period.

Many are out of work, or on low earnings and could be contributing more to the economy and earning higher wages.

What measures will be put in place for Occupational Health providers?

1. Support more businesses to provide Occupational Health services, the government will expand the forthcoming occupational health pilot subsidy scheme for small and medium sized businesses announced by the Department for Health and Social Care and DWP in 2021. The government will also launch a separate consultation on options for incentivising greater take-up of Occupational Health provision through the tax system.

2. The government will consult on ways to boost UK Occupational Health coverage, including, for example, through regulations to require employers to provide occupational health The consultation will also consider a process of kitemarking and professional accreditation to assure quality of occupational health services. To ensure occupational health providers can meet this increased demand for their services, the consultation will also consider the supply of occupational health professionals.

3. Occupational Health SME Subsidy Pilot – The government will expand a subsidy pilot scheme to support small and medium-sized businesses in England with the cost of purchasing Occupational Health Services.

How can Occupational Health help?

Occupational Health should be at the forefront of your health and wellbeing strategy. Implementing an Occupational Health service is a proactive way to reduce health-related inactivity by identifying, monitoring, and preventing health problems.

We help businesses to promote employee wellbeing, which is a key business asset, essential to productivity and profitability.

Our Absence Management services are designed to offer specialist, independent advice which can ensure your workforce remain fit and safe to meet the needs of your business.

Our Occupational Health services: 

Case Management Referrals/Absence Management – delivered via video or telephone

Health Surveillance

Fitness for Work /Safety Critical Medicals

Pre-Employment Screening

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Musculoskeletal Assessment and Treatment

If you’d like to discuss any aspect of our Occupational Health services, you can contact us HERE or call us on  0808 1963 688