What is corporate eyecare?
By law, employers have to pay for eye tests and glasses, if required, by staff who use visual display units. They can reimburse staff these costs, issue vouchers or provide optical perks via a health cash plan.
Where can employers get more information?
Employers can find out more about their obligations from the Health and Safety Executive at www.hse.gov.uk/index.htm
Who are the main providers?
ASE Corporate Eyecare
Dolland and Aitchison
Intelligent Corporate Eyecare
Specsavers Corporate Eyecare
Employers have a legal obligation to provide basic eyecare for employees, but many are seeing the advantages of going beyond the minimum requirements, says Nicola Sullivan
Employers are legally required to fund a basic level of eyecare for employees who use visual display units (VDUs). To meet the minimum requirements of the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations, employers have to cover the cost of eye tests and glasses for staff using computers. They are obliged to meet the cost of one eye test every two years, as well as additional checks requested by an optician. Employees who work from home or away on business are also covered by the regulations, whether or not they use their employer’s computers.
Workplace eyecare schemes typically provide staff with pre-paid vouchers that can be redeemed at an optician. Specsavers, for example, offers vouchers that cover the cost of the eye test as well as glasses from its £45 range. Laura Butler, corporate account manager at Specsavers, says: “We offer two kinds of voucher. One is designed for organisations that want to meet their legal obligation only, and there is another voucher for employers should they wish to go over and above that.”
Offer a choice of opticians
Other providers, such as Accor Services, provide schemes that offer employees a choice of several opticians.
Alternatively, employers can provide a company-funded healthcare cash plan that includes optical benefits. Meanwhile, those that want to cover staff beyond the legal requirements can include optical perks in a flexible or voluntary benefits scheme.
Some organisations deal with employees’ eyecare requirements on a case-by-case basis, reimbursing them after they have paid for their test and glasses. But this method is not always the most cost-efficient. Andrew Adams, sales manager at Accor Services, says: “Sometimes employers will say to people: ‘Go down to the optician, have a sight test and we will pay the bill’. This leaves employers very open to quite a wide range of pricing structures. If somebody was to have a sight test which was £30, then the employer would have to reimburse that employee for £30.”
According to research conducted by Specsavers in October 2009, 73% of organisations believe offering eyecare makes them a more responsible employer, and 28% say the perk improves their benefits package as a whole. Also, 48% of the employers surveyed planned to adopt a voucher scheme to reduce administration and 21% said they would do so in order to benefit from peripheral offers and discounts.
Extending benefits to drivers
A number of employers are now extending optical benefits to employees who fall outside of their legal requirements, such as those who drive on business. The introduction in 2008 of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 has placed more importance on this perk because the legislation stipulates that if an organisation’s gross negligence leads to an employee’s death, it will face prosecution and possibly an unlimited fine.
“Employers are really starting to look seriously at eyecare provision and how they need to provide certainly a test for people who drive on company business,” says Adams. “Some companies have taken that on board and are now rolling out their schemes for both VDU users and drivers. That is one change that has been seen by the market in the last couple of years.”
In recent years, the concept of offering optical benefits has also broadened to include options such as money off designer glasses and contact lenses, private medical insurance for acute eye conditions and discounted laser eye surgery.
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