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The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak to highlight the need for occupational health to be made available to anyone who might need it, and to urge a rethink of the taxation of employer-funded private health treatment.
The letter says there is a strong economic case for the government to support access to OH for all employers, and suggests HM Treasury should support the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Work and Pensions to provide logistical, financial and practical support for OH providers to ensure that their services are available to anybody who may need them.
If action is not taken to improve access to OH there is a risk of further Covid-19 outbreaks in workplaces, as well as longer-term health crises, the letter suggests.
It says: “OH services are key in supporting employees with Covid-19 risks and keeping them in work safely during these challenging times. Long Covid is a current example of a new way OH can help.
“Research shows that many returning to work during the Covid-19 crisis will return with depleted mental health. OH services have been proven to enable those on sick leave due to mental health problems to return to work successfully.
“Longer term, there is an opportunity now to positively influence the health and wellbeing of the working population and the prosperity of the nation. By investing in OH, the government can support employers to safeguard their workforce and manage risks.”
The letter is signed by Dr Mike Goldsmith, chair of SOM’s OH Commercial Providers Leadership Group, and co-signed by several prominent figures in the OH community from organisations including AXA PP, the Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing, Medigold and Optima Health, among others.
Another issue in need of the Treasury’s attention is the taxation of employees when an employer pays for private sector treatment of a condition that is preventing them from returning to work, the letter says.
“The UK economy and the Exchequer will benefit from this investment to facilitate quicker return to work due to reduced sick pay, increased income tax and productivity. A tax in this area therefore would benefit from a cost/benefit analysis,” it adds.
Finally, SOM says it would like to work with the Treasury to ensure the UK population has access to OH advice and assessment.
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