Boris Johnson says his first Budget will include tax breaks for companies who help staff with mental health issues
Companies who do more to help staff struggling with mental health problems should be rewarded with tax breaks, Boris Johnson has said.
The Conservative leadership frontrunner said it was time to offer "preferential tax treatment to companies that look after employees in work" as he vowed to order a Treasury review in time for his first Budget if he becomes Prime Minister.
Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Johnson said it would be "far better" for people with mental health problems to be able to get treatment without "being forced to leave their job".
And he argued that staying in work could give people grappling with depression and other conditions an "all-important sense of satisfaction".
He said: "As things stand, mental health and occupational health services are taxable as benefits in kind. That means they incur both income tax and national insurance.
"At most, employers can get a modest reimbursement of £500, but only if an employee is off for more than 28 days – a hopeless incentive, since the whole objective should be to keep the employee in the workplace, or to ensure that time off is as brief as possible.
"So let me make a suggestion. I believe it is time to offer preferential tax treatment to companies that look after employees in work – giving them the counselling and the help they need to do their jobs.
"It is time for the Treasury and the NHS to work together to review the rules. And if they can come up with a plan – and I am sure that they can – we should put it into effect this autumn in what, if I am lucky enough to be elected, would be the first Budget of the new government."
Mr Johnson stopped short of outlining to how his government would fund the tax breaks, which he admitted would "cost money".
But he argued that "any loss in revenue would be more than made up by the gains in productivity and the savings in NHS spending".
The latest tax cut pledge comes after both candidates in the Conservative leadership race came under fire from Philip Hammond for engaging in a "bidding war" of tax and spending promises.
The Chancellor told the BBC earlier this month: "There is always a temptation to sort of get into a bidding war about spending more and cutting taxes.
“But you can’t do both and, if we’re not careful, all we end up doing is borrowing more, spending more on interest instead of on our schools and our hospitals and our police, and delivering a bigger burden of debt to our children and our grandchildren."
The Times reports that Mr Johnson will meanwhile use the early days of his premiership to try and thrash out a trade deal with US President Donald Trump.
According to the paper, Mr Johnson would aim to meet Mr Trump without two months of becoming Prime Minister.
An ally of the Conservative leadership hopeful said: "The key to the whole thing is the US. If we get a trade deal with America we will be very quickly in the market for other deals. It encourages others to realise that we mean business."