Corporate optical care covers a huge array of obligations, regulations, employee benefits and policy decisions. Here are 10 tips to help you get it right:
1 Understand the regulations
With computers in use in most roles, the 1992 Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations (amended in 2002) affect almost all employees. These require employers to provide all employees who use visual display units (VDUs) with eye tests, when requested, and glasses, if required. The regulations are complex, and a lack of understanding can lead to employees missing out on their basic rights.
Not understanding the regulations can also lead to employers paying way over the odds. For example, while employees may request expensive frames or lenses, the regulations state that ‘special’ corrective appliances (glasses) need only be provided specifically for VDU use. Optometrists’ services can range widely in price, but an HR professional who understands the regulations will know they can control costs by specifying which opticians staff visit.
2 Consider an inclusive eyecare policy
With many eyecare policies covering the VDU regulations in particular, the initial hurdle for an HR professional is to decide which staff are covered. Under the VDU regulations, it is necessary to decide who counts as a ‘regular’ or ‘habitual’ VDU user. It is often simpler and safer to assume all employees who use VDUs are covered by the regulations. In fact, it can take a great deal more time and money trying to exclude one person from eyecare cover than to include everyone in a blanket, low-cost scheme.
3 Recognise the wider health benefits
A full eye examination by a fully qualified optometrist using a retinal camera can assess the whole visual system and point to many more general health issues. High-tech retinal cameras can aid the detection of illnesses and conditions like glaucoma, diabetes, inflammatory disorders, macular degenerations, vascular occlusions and cataracts.
With a simple examination being able to detect so many health risks, it is well worthwhile for the employer and employee alike.
4 Safeguard drivers
Between a quarter and a third of road traffic accidents are believed to involve people who are driving during the course of their work. Employers would not dream of letting a vehicle on the road without a valid MOT or the basic safety checks that ensure its roadworthiness. The most vital piece of equipment for safe driving – eyesight – is, however, all too often disregarded.
An eye examination with a qualified optometrist can cost just a few pounds but, if undertaken at least every two years, can vastly improve the chances of staying safe on the roads.
5 Enforce safety eyewear
Amazingly, one of the biggest issues with safety eyewear is that it is not actually worn. Uncomfortable safety eyewear is more likely to be removed, even when it is not safe to do so. It is vital for the selected optician to offer a complete fitting service to ensure safety eyewear not only offers adequate coverage for the eyes but also that the glasses are comfortable enough to be worn for long periods of time.
It is also important to provide appropriate safety eyewear to guests and visitors, no matter how brief their time spent in the environment. Prescription glasses only offer suitable protection in very low impact resistance situations.
6 Don’t take risks
With the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 now in place, potentially involving fines of seven-figure sums, no employer can afford to take a risk with their employees’ health and safety. The loss of an employee’s eyesight would not only be a tragedy in itself, but could easily lead to much greater risks for that individual and their colleagues.
7 Research your choice of optometrist
Different optometrists offer different levels of service and pricing. For safety frames in particular, consider how involved the optometrist is in the overall process – those with their own range of frames and certified glazing facility are likely to result in a greatly-reduced cost and will give consistency of service and quality.
8 Opt for a range of styles
Although corporate eyewear is essentially functional, do not underestimate how important style may be to your employees. Eyewear is only of use to staff if they do actually wear it.
9 Reduce administration
Eyecare voucher schemes can offer exceptional value for money without time-consuming administration. Employers simply buy the vouchers in advance and distribute them to the relevant employees, who can redeem them as and when they wish. It is the easiest, most controllable and transparent process available.
10 Make use of additional benefits
Some corporate eyecare providers offer clients additional benefits such as money-off vouchers, 2-for-1 deals and upgrades to designer frames. These can not only save the employer money, but can offer tangible extra benefits for employees.
Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances, Specsavers Corporate Eyecare
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