15 June 2016

With two-fifths of manufacturers reporting that long-term absence increased in the last two years, a major employers' organisation has called for tax breaks to be introduced to help to tackle the UK’s chronic sickness absence problem.

EEF warned that the NHS is not meeting the needs of 40% of manufacturers when it comes to getting their employees back to work, while 60% would pay for private treatment if the cost could be offset.

The manufacturing employers' organisation has carried out the UK’s biggest business survey on sickness absence and has produced Health: The Key to Productivity?.

Available on the EEF website, this highlights that the health of employees is a major factor in an organisation's competitiveness and that keeping people in work, and helping them return to work, is enormously important for the manufacturing sector and the wider economy.

Terry Woolmer, Head of Health and Safety Policy at EEF, said: "Government must now use fiscal incentives to encourage employers to pay for private medical treatment and allow it to be offset in the same way as other business expenses. Not only would this help take the pressure off the NHS but it would allow a speedier return to work."

The survey also provides some tentative evidence of the effectiveness of the "Fit for Work" service introduced last September.

While there is high awareness of it, currently only 19% of employers said that they would definitely be willing to pay for medical treatments recommended by the service and 18% said they would not use it at all.

EEF has suggested that the Government should treat tax relief for private medical insurance in the same way as the £500 tax exemption for treatments recommended by the Fit for Work service.