Businesses to be offered healthcare subsidies

Chancellor to announce trial of subsidies covering up to 80% of costs for private health assessments of workers in small and medium-sized businesses

The Government is to trial covering 80 per cent of the cost of providing healthcare to employees in small and medium-sized firms.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt should announce trialling the healthcare subsidy in the Budget on March 15, as part of the Government’s push to get nearly 7m economically-inactive people back into work.

These occupational health subsidies will help pay for SMEs to offering preventative health screening for staff, such as measuring weight and height, blood pressure and body mass index.

Appraisals would be given annually as a kind of “health MoT”, one Government source told the Sunday Times.

Many large companies have inhouse occupational health services such as their own doctors or buy in services from private providers to monitor the health of their workforce. This is seen as prohibitively expensive for small businesses, with owner-directors of SMEs five times less likely to invest in occupational health, according to the newspaper.

Foreign worker rules

Hospitality businesses may be able to recruit foreign chefs as well as restaurant and hotel managers more easily under an update to the points-based post-Brexit immigration system.

The Government has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review what it can do for sectors facing labour shortages, including construction, hospitality and retail, by way of tweaking the shortage occupation list.

The list, which was last reviewed in 2020, sets out the skilled jobs for which there is a short supply of domestic workers and makes it easier to recruit people from abroad.

It does this primarily by reducing the salary threshold under which foreign workers can qualify for a skilled worker visa to come to Britain. While the salary threshold is £25,600 at present, roles on the shortage occupation list can be offered at £20,480 or at a 20 per cent discount, whichever is higher. It also reduces the cost for businesses to sponsor a visa for a foreign worker.

Investment zones

Meanwhile, the Treasury is planning to revive the idea, previously touted by former Prime Minister Liz Truss, for up to 10 so-called “investment zones”, which will enable businesses operating inside them to benefit from enhanced tax relief and lighter-touch regulations.

More on Budget 2023

Budget 2023 what small business can expect

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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...