Keeping an eye on workplace eyecare

Strict health and safety regulations apply to all employers, both in the public and private sectors, covering caring for the eyesight of all staff. Specsavers Corporate Eyecare has undertaken comprehensive research into the eyecare policies implemented by organisations across the public sector. The research represents policies and regulatory interpretations affecting up to 130,000 employees.

Non compliance
With Display Screen Equipment (or VDUs) in widespread use across all industries, the 1992 Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) regulations (amended in 2002) apply to virtually all staff. In fact, all respondents said that at least some their staff use VDUs in the course of their work and over three quarters of respondents (76 per cent) said VDUs are used by more than half of their staff.

Yet, not one of the organisations responding to the research stated that they wholly fund VDU eyecare for the relevant staff. This is a staggering failure to comply with the health and safety regulations which stipulate that any member of staff using a VDU is entitled to an eyetest and glasses, if required for VDU use, both wholly funded by the organisation.

Costly misunderstandings

Over a quarter (28 per cent) of organisations are not making use of vouchers to administer eyecare (compared to 43 per cent in the private sector). Voucher schemes are arguably the most admin-friendly and cost-effective eyecare solution available. 62 per cent of public sector organisations leave the choice of optometrist up to the individual member of staff and 72 per cent either allow staff to claim back any eyecare on expenses or have no formal system in place at all (compared to 53 per cent in the private sector). This could prove very expensive as costs for optometrists can vary hugely. This lack of defined policy can also lead to a loss of control over quality and consistency of service and care.

Nearly half of respondents (47 per cent) would expect to pay more than £50 for an eye examination and glasses required for VDU use and 14 per cent would expect to pay more than £100. This shows the vast overspend that could be made through lack of investigation into eyecare providers or through the organisation not specifying its own optometrist. Both the eyetest and glasses for VDU use can actually be provided for less than £20, as realised by just 24 per cent of respondents.

The survey revealed that over two thirds (67 per cent) of public sector employers only review their eyecare provider every five years or less. Organisations could well be missing out on cost-effective deals for employers or on technological advances: digital retinal cameras are now available at leading optometrists and can make eyecare benefits a much bigger part of overall healthcare by enabling the detection of life-threatening illnesses and medical conditions. 

Value of eyecare as a benefit
The value placed upon eyecare benefits by staff is high: 10 per cent of respondents believe their staff see eyecare as the most valued benefit or more valued than other benefits. Nearly half (48 per cent) of employers believe their staff value eyecare equally, if not more than, other benefits. The results are especially impressive considering that this is also comparing eyecare with financial benefits.

The intranet has become a favourite tool for communicating benefits. Over three quarters (76 per cent) of organisations in the public sector now use their intranet as a method of conveying their eyecare policy (compared to just 47 per cent in the private sector). Despite the well-known importance of communication of benefits, five per cent of organisations still have no formal method for communicating their eyecare policy to their staff.

The results are surprising given the sheer size of many public sector organisations. The survey shows that a third (33 per cent) of public sector respondents have over 10,000 employees within their organisation. This compares to just 16 per cent of private sector organisations with this level of staffing. Having an eyecare policy in place and a formal method of communication would therefore seem more important still within the public sector.

It is essential that organisations should not only have an eyecare policy in place but also that they ensure that staff are aware of their entitlement. This is actually a stipulation under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) regulations and is vital in ensuring the proper care of staff and the careful management of related budgets.

The DSE eyecare regulations affect such large numbers of staff within the public sector, making it vital that correct procedures and policies are in place. Investing a little time in exploring the options for eyecare benefits can have positive rewards for employees, in terms of the care they receive, and for organisations, in terms of budgetary savings.

Specsavers Corporate Eyecare has written a guide explaining the full details of the Display Screen Equipment Regulations, which is available by e-mailing


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