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20 March 2013 Employers will be able to access tax relief for health-related interventions recommended by its planned health and work assessment and advisory service, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced in his Budget.

Each year more than 130 million working days are lost to sickness absence. Responding to the recommendations of Dame Carol Black and David Frost on how to tackle sickness absence, the Government announced earlier this year that it would set up a state-funded service through which occupational-health professionals can provide employers with advice on helping employees who had fallen ill return to work.

The report also recommended that medical treatments, or vocational rehabilitation targeted at keeping sick employees in work should be eligible for tax relief but. At the time, the Government was non-committal on this matter, but Chancellor Osborne has now promised to deliver, telling the House of Commons: Companies that look after their employees, and help them return to work after periods of sickness, will get new help through the tax system.

The Budget document commits the Government to introduce a targeted tax-relief scheme, so that amounts up to a cap of £500 paid by employers on health-related interventions recommended by the service are not treated as a taxable benefit in kind. A consultation on how this will be implemented will be launched later this year.

IOSH, which has been campaigning on the issue for several years, welcomed the decision. Head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones said: We are delighted at the inclusion of this concession which is an important start and recognises that removing tax disincentives could help encourage more employers to provide useful support for ill, or injured employees removing tax disincentives and encouraging employers who want to do the right thing for their employees is a win-win situation for everyone. Its good for employers and businesses, its good for workers and their families, and its good for the economy and society as a whole.

Echoing Jones remarks, Terry Woolmer, head of health and safety policy at EEF, the manufacturers organisation, added: Introducing targeted tax relief on employer health-related intervention is welcome recognition that these investments support growth by helping employees get back to work earlier.

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