Buyer’s guide to corporate eyecare

Credit: Shutterstock/Yury-Nikolaev.

What are corporate eyecare schemes?

Looking after employees’ eye health delivers several benefits to employers. As well as helping meet their duty-of-care requirements, offering employees a regular eye examination can be part of the overall health and wellbeing strategy.

Problems with eyesight can cause headaches and eye strain and an optician can also pick up the early signs of serious health issues including diabetes and high blood pressure.

There are several types of corporate eyecare scheme. The most common is through a voucher, or more commonly e-voucher. These are provided to employees when they need a sight test and will cover the cost of the examination and, in some cases, provide at least a contribution towards glasses.

Some vouchers can be used in any opticians, while others might be tied to a network or chain of providers. An employer could also set up a scheme with a local provider, or, if numbers make it viable, arrange for an optician to carry out eye examinations onsite. Optical benefits are also available through health cash plans and on monthly subscription plans.

What are the cost implications?

As there are several different ways to deliver eyecare benefits, costs can vary significantly. For example, Specsavers offers a voucher for £17 for employers looking to meet their legal requirements around display screen equipment. This covers a full eye test and up to £70 towards selected glasses.

EyeMed also provides a voucher to cover these legal requirements. It costs £55 but this picks up the full cost of the eye test and glasses.

Health cash plan costs depend on the level of cover and how it is provided. As an example, an organisation with more than 10 employees would pay £4.77 a month for level one cover on Health Shield’s Select Plan, which includes £65 of optical benefit a year as well as a range of other health benefits.

EyeMed also offers a monthly subscription model, focusing purely on optical benefits. Its bronze membership is £6 a month and offers discounted eye examinations and £100 towards lenses and frames.

Are there any tax or legal issues?

Several pieces of legislation set out an employer’s responsibilities regarding employees’ eyecare. As well as the general requirements to protect employees’ health under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers must also be mindful of the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations.

These were introduced in 1992 and protect staff who regularly work on display screen equipment (DSE) such as laptops, PCs and smartphones. It requires employers to conduct a DSE workstation assessment and, if the employee asks for it, provide them with an eye test. The employer must also pay for glasses if these are required for DSE work.

The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 also include employees’ eyes. If an employee is operating machinery or there is a risk to their eyes, safety glasses or googles must be provided.

It is also prudent to ensure that anyone driving for work has their eyesight checked regularly. Although there is no specific legal requirement, the Health and Safety at Work Act requires an employer to safeguard employees’ health and safety and ensure that others are not put at any risk as a result of employees’ activities, including driving with poor eyesight.

What are the current market trends or developments?

Although corporate eyecare grew mainly off the back of the DSE regulations, providers are looking to break into the optical wellbeing market. This supports the growth of wellbeing benefits but also recognises that, especially as the workforce ages, employees like to be able to get new glasses.

This has been recognised by the cash plan providers for many years but also, more recently, EyeMed launched a monthly subscription model a couple of years ago.

Another development, mirroring the pandemic-fuelled appetite for digital health services, is online eye screening. Ocushield launched online eye screening in 2022, giving access to a comprehensive test that takes around seven minutes and costs £6 or less a year per employee.

Cash plan providers are also sprucing up their optical benefits. This year, Simplyhealth partnered with EyeMed to offer access to eye tests and a 20% discount on frames and lenses at more than 1,200 opticians across the UK. This is available as a direct settlement scheme, cutting out the need for employees to pay upfront and claim the money back.

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Who are the main providers and what types of schemes do they offer? 

The main providers offering voucher schemes include EyeMed, which used to be known as ASE Corporate Eyecare; Specsavers Corporate Eyecare and Smart Employee Eyecare. EyeMed and Unum Dental offer monthly subscription wellbeing-style plans while the cash plan market includes Simplyhealth and Health Shield as well as medical insurers such as Axa Health, Aviva and WPA.