BudgetMar 15 2023

'Missed opportunity' to boost Britain's workplaces: Swiss Re

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'Missed opportunity' to boost Britain's workplaces: Swiss Re
Budget 2023: Three key opportunities to boost older workers were missed, Swiss Re claims. (Carter Yocham/Andrea Piacquadio/Anna Shvets//FTA montage)
BySimoney Kyriakou

Jeremy Hunt's blistering Budget acknowledged the need to boost Britain's older workforce but failed to deliver on three key wins, a veteran protection specialist has claimed.

Ron Wheatcroft, technical manager at Swiss Re, said he had been advocating for the UK government to push through changes in three key areas.

These were: fewer tax charges on life assurance policies; occupational health initiatives to help people stay in the workplace; and P11D charges on employee assistance programmes.

According to Wheatcroft, these would have helped reduce the burden of complexity for taxpayers and helped the chancellor achieve his ambition of keeping more people in the workplace. 

Chancellor Hunt said: "Today, we deliver the next part of our plan: a Budget for growth ... but long-term, sustainable, healthy growth that pays for our NHS and schools, finds good jobs for young people and provides a safety net for older people."

The Budget acknowledged that more needed to be done to lure the over-50s back into the workforce and keep them there, by uplifting the caps on the money purchase annual allowance from £4,000 to £10,000, for example. "Older people are the most skilled and experienced people we have in Britain", he told the deputy speaker.

There were also measures to help those with disabilities to stay in the workforce, with £400mn for occupational health to keep sick people in work, and increasing the mid-life MOT availability.

But Wheatcroft said much more could have been done to help older workers. “While it’s important that the Government is taking steps to improve occupational health initiatives which help to mitigate economic inactivity, we are disappointed that the proposed measures didn't go further.”

Instead, he called it a "missed opportunity", comments echoed by senior parliamentarians, such as Baroness Ros Altmann.

Wheatcroft outlined the rationale for the three changes he had hoped to see in the Budget on March 15. These were:

Fewer charges for life insurance policies held in trust

Currently, a discretionary trust that holds one or more pure protection life assurance policies faces possible tax charges – at entry, periodically through its life, and on closure.

In his view, these charges need to go.

Wheatcroft said: "They were designed with investments in mind and should have no place when pure protection policies are put into trust. The main reason for doing so is to ensure the policy proceeds are paid promptly at a time when loved ones need them most, not with any investment motives in mind.

Occupational health services should be expanded to support those in poor health to stay in the labour force.Baroness Ros Altmann