Chancellor gives a morsel and grabs back much more
A couple of things hidden in the Chancellor’s autumn statement might be of interest to health and safety people. On a positive note he did extend the exemption from taxation to medical treatments recommended by employer-arranged occupational health services in addition to those recommended by the new Health and Work Service (which starts next year). This is likely to cover treatments of up to £500.
This means that those workers who are lucky enough to have an employer who is willing to refer them to a physio or other type of therapist is no longer going to find themselves issued with a big tax bill. Of course for most workers their employer providing any kind of paid access to rehabilitation is a pipe dream, but it is a step forward and one the TUC has been raising with the Government for many years.
On a more negative note the cut in the DWP budget may well mean even further cuts in the HSE budget on top of these it has already experienced (35%).
He also announced changes to the retirement age which mean that the date where it will be raised to 68 is brought forward and also will be linked to life expectancy so if current trends continue, anyone aged 31 or under may well have a retirement age of 70.
This is because no-one should spend more than a third of their adult life retired. Now that may seem fair, until you think about it for a few seconds. Those that most need the state pension are those who are in the lowest paid jobs or who have been unable to work through illness, after all they are far less likely to have a private pension or savings. These are also the people who are most likely to die before reaching retirement age.
Life expectancy at birth for males in Kensington and Chelsea (one of the richest boroughs in the country) is 85.1, while for females it is 89.8. In Glasgow, men’s expectancy is 71.6 and 78 for women. That means that Glasgow men die 14 years earlier. Incidentally, average pay for men in Kensington and Chelsea in 2011 was over three and a half times that of a man in Glasgow (£87,516 compared to £23,356). So if the pension age is raised to 70 the average Glaswegian man might expect to be able to claim it for a year.
It is not just a geographical split. It is also a work one. How many construction workers are going to be able to continue until they are 70? Those that have not succumbed to the much higher rates of cancer that plague construction workers will almost certainly have had to stop working long before then because of musculoskeletal disorders like back, hip or knee problems.