In the current economic climate, any practical assistance is welcome and the government should be applauded for such an intervention if it helps provide respite for hard-pressed organisations.
At William Grant and Sons, we already have a group private medical insurance (PMI) scheme in place extending across all employees and, in many cases, their families too. We use an occupational health service for employment-related assessments and support. We offer various wellbeing and health-related support mechanisms, and we manage absence in a fair but robust fashion. The upshot is an absence level that will rarely reach, or exceed, 3%.
Will the advent of tax relief bring about any change to those practices? Quite simply, no.
However, the government’s initiative leads to other questions, some of which carry a more political dimension.
Why has the government made this a funding priority? Why is there a belief that there is a role for the government in this process, when it should, largely, lie in the domain of the employer? Is this about the usual ‘lowest common denominator’ approach, to bring up those employers that don’t do enough or positively encourage those that can’t afford to do more?
Either way, with close scrutiny of the use of scarce public funds and the whole notion of value for money, I would have thought there were more pressing (business) priorities elsewhere.
Indeed, with an ageing population, rampant medical inflation (which seems to constantly outstrip economic and wage inflation) and the challenges created by immigration and healthcare tourism, perhaps the government would have been better advised to focus such funds and resources on the NHS rather than tax relief for PMI provision.
But there is a strong sense in many quarters that, from the government’s perspective, that particular ship sailed some time ago.
Gary Brewer is head of reward and organisational development at William Grant and Sons