Employers support government’s Health and Work Service

More than half (58%) of respondents intend to build referrals to the government’s incoming Health and Work Service (HWS) into their absence management policies, according to research by Jelf Employee Benefits.


Its research, which surveyed 124 employers, found that just 7% of respondents do not intend to make referrals, while a further 15% are undecided.

Almost one-fifth (19%) said they do not intend to build these referrals into their absence management policies because they already have an occupational health programme in place.

The HWS, which is expected to be introduced in 2014, is an independent assessment of any employee who is absent from work for four weeks or more.

The government has also confirmed it will introduce a tax break of up to £500 for employers that fund treatments, recommended by the HWS or other occupational health arrangement.

The research found that more than half (51%) of respondents think the £500 tax break will encourage their organisation to pay the costs of recommended treatments.

Only 8% said the tax break would not encourage the organisation to pay the costs of treatments, while 33% said it would not because they already have robust cover for such treatments through the provision of private medical insurance. 

Steve Herbert (pictured), head of benefits strategy at Jelf Employee Benefits, said: “This is hugely important. If UK employers are to make any progress in tackling sickness absence, it’s key that all employees who are absent for any significant period of time are assessed at an early stage. 

“In the absence of any mandated trigger to achieve this, it’s important that employers voluntarily take advantage of either the HWS or an organisation-specific occupational health scheme.

“The HWS, and tax break, will be valuable new tools in the UK’s battle against sickness absence costs. It is pleasing that so many employers are willing to consider building these new initiatives into their overall sickness-absence procedures at this early stage.

“As ever, the key to success will be the education of both employers and employees as to how these tools can be best used for each scenario. We await further details from the government on both initiatives later this year.”