Are employees entitled to free eye tests?
8th November 2017
If you don’t know the law on eye tests for employees, it can be a little confusing. But it’s vital you understand your responsibilities as an employer, so use this guide to learn more about the laws on eye tests, payment and also contributions towards glasses.
Eye test entitlement
So are all employees entitled to free eye tests? Well it depends on the nature of their job. The regulations (which we’ll get to later) only guarantee eye tests for employees who use DSE – Display Screen Equipment. And it’s only if an employee is required to use a screen as part of their job regularly that they’re automatically entitled. So if your business is office-based and your employees are always using a computer, then you will need to offer eye tests.
However – it’s also worth considering eye tests for employees who don’t use Display Screen Equipment, if they drive company cars. More on this further below.
It’s up to an employee to request an eye test, it’s not an obligation for them to have one. But if they wish to have an eye test then you should be prepared to offer them at regular intervals as prescribed by an optician, and as an employer you’ll be required to pay for the test. However because of this, you’re able to select the optician that employees must use, unless there are any special requirements that only a certain optician could fulfil.
Existing spectacle users
It’s important to clarify that these eye tests aren’t designed to identify vision defects. The aim of these eye tests is to understand whether the specific use of Display Screen Equipment requires glasses purely to remedy any eye strain or discomfort.
That being said, someone who already wears glasses or contact lenses can still request an eye test. And just as with any other employee, if they’re found to need special corrective eye wear in order to reduce strain from using Display Screen Equipment, you’ll be expected to make a contribution.
Contributions towards glasses
If, following an eye test, it’s found that an employee needs glasses to help them cope with eye strain directly from their day-to-day use of Display Screen Equipment, then you will need to cover some of the costs. However as with the choice of optician, you do have some medium of control here – employees can’t suddenly start charging you for the latest fashion frames from top brands and expecting you to pay for it all.
Instead you’re required to cover the costs of a basic frame and lenses to ensure the employee is comfortable in their work. The employee is then permitted to make their own contribution if they wish to choose from a more expensive range.
Eye care vouchers
Offering eye care vouchers is one of the most common ways an employer can provide the required eye care. These can be bought from an optician, and will cover the cost of eye tests and any required glasses resulting from that test.
Eye care vouchers are exempt from tax and national insurance contributions for both employer and employee, making them a cost-effective option that allows staff to organise their eye care at a convenient time, without having to think about claiming back costs at a later date.
Alternatives to eye care vouchers
There are alternatives to eye care vouchers, such as health care plans where your employees can claim back for their tests and treatments. If you offer a health care plan through a dedicated company then your employees just need to submit a claim direct to them. You may also wish to consider more long-term, above-and-beyond solutions, including laser eye treatment.
Health and Safety Regulations Act 1992
All of these rules come from the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. There are some other regulations as part of this Act that you should consider too:
- Employers should carry out a risk assessment of an employee’s workstation, to make sure that any potential risks are minimised or eliminated completely. This isn’t just limited to avoiding wires, but also making sure any screens can be safely displayed at the correct height to reduce muscle or eye strain
- Employers must ensure that an employee is taking regular breaks from their screen, to reduce the risk of eye strain. The recommended time away from the screen is five minutes in every 30 minutes, and the breaks can include alternate tasks either at the employee’s desk or elsewhere
- Employer’s must provide proper health and safety training on the use of the workstation. It may seem a little overbearing but it’s vital that each employee knows how to adjust their chair and if possible desk to make sure they are comfortable. You should also make sure your employees know the correct way to sit – feet able to sit flat on the floor or a footrest and elbows roughly level with the desk and keyboard.
Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
There is one consideration to make for providing eye tests that doesn’t involve the use of Display Screen Equipment. Since the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, it’s very much possible for a business to be found at fault in the case of fatal accidents that happen during business.
So if your employees regularly use a company car to travel on work-related journeys, you should consider making eye tests mandatory. If an employee has a fatal accident that’s later found to be due to visual defects, then you could be found to be liable for prosecution.
Keep records of eye care
Finally, it’s important that you keep records of every employee who’s had an eye test that you’ve paid for, and when they had it. While opticians are usually reliable in sending invites for future tests, ultimately you are responsible for ensuring your employees are aware when they’re due another test.
It should now be clear on when your employees are entitled to free eye tests and also when you should consider providing eye tests even when you aren’t obligated to do so. It’s best to establish a policy that works for your business needs and communicate it through your company handbook so that all your employees are fully up to speed.