By Daniel Hunter

The budget announcement that employers will be encouraged through the tax system to provide health interventions to support people back into work is a step in the right direction in getting the UK's economy moving, claims the Society of Occupational Medicine.

The government is to introduce tax relief on up to £500-worth of health-related interventions funded by employers in a move designed to tackle long-term sickness absence.

The targeted tax relief will be able to be accessed via the new independent assessment and advisory service that the Government announced in January. This service will provide free access to occupational health support for everyone who has been off sick for more than four weeks. The new tax relief, announced by Chancellor George Osborne in the 2013 Budget, will apply to health-related interventions recommended by the new Service.

The Government spends £13billion a year on health- related benefits and employers face an annual bill of £9 billion on sick pay. Incentivising workplace health is important to reduce the benefit bill and more importantly to help keep individual workers healthy.

Welcoming the announcement, the Society of Occupational Medicine said that it would provide employers with an additional incentive for supporting the health of their workforce.

"Britain needs to keep people economically active. Providing incentives for employers to provide health services is a win-win-win" said Dr Richard Heron, President of the Society of Occupational Medicine.

"It's good for the UK's prosperity, it's good for individual businesses and it's good for workers health. If people fall out of work through sickness, research shows it can be very difficult to re enter the workforce. This should support employers to help their staff quickly so they remain in work."

There is good evidence to show that by providing the right range of occupational health support and offering targeted rapid interventions, workers can be prevented from falling out of work and helped to return to work more quickly.

Workplaces are where most people spend most of their working age life. They are an excellent place to address health issues, support those with long-term conditions and provide a holistic approach. Workplaces are also an ideal environment to tackle the lifestyle factors such as obesity that place an enormous burden on the NHS.

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