Debi O’Donovan, editor of Employee Benefits: Will the government play fair on shares?

With the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government now installed in Westminster, we await its first Budget on 22 June with some anticipation. On the benefits front, it would appear it will be mostly business as before (see News analysis).

We have known for some time that the political parties are broadly in agreement on the changes needed to occupational pensions to encourage more savings, while next April’s changes for higher earners are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future (no government could currently afford to go back on these).†

The biggest fear so far is how any change to capital gains tax (CGT) will affect employee share plans. Vast numbers of ordinary workers across the land have benefited hugely from these schemes over the years and it would be sad to see plans become less attractive if CGT is raised.†

Admittedly, for those on the lower tax rate it would make little difference (potentially rising from 18% to 20%), but if those at the top lose interest in share plans, they are less likely to be available at all.†

To date, we have not seen any clues to the new government’s stance on workplace health. Conversations with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pre-election indicated that this was not a top priority for either party. Hopefully, they will build on the good (but not perfect, if employer criticisms of the new fit notes are to be believed) work done by the previous government.†

At Employee Benefits’ ‘Health and wellbeing at work’ conference last month, it was clear that the past few years have seen a tremendous change in the way leading employers view wellbeing initiatives in the workplace. Far from being touchy-feely, nice-to-have programmes, they have evolved into crucial business tools that save long-term costs, improve productivity and motivate staff.†

People such as Dame Carol Black, Will Cavendish and his health and wellbeing team at the Department of Work and Pensions, and the likes of Business in the Community’s Business Action on Health programme are to be highly commended.†

I, for one, will want to see these workplace health strategies continued and built upon.