Buyer’s guide to corporate eyecare 2014

There are healthcare and legal reasons why employers should offer staff an eyecare benefit.
Buyer's guide to corporate eyecare

The perk is not only popular with employees, but it helps them to look after their eyesight and other aspects of their health.

A full eye examination can detect serious conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol at an early stage, which can help employers to cut their future healthcare costs by managing employee wellbeing and sickness absence.

Employers have a duty of care and a legal obligation, under the 1992 Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations, to provide basic eyecare benefits. Any employee using a visual display unit (VDU) can request an employer-funded eye and eyesight test. Employers must also meet the cost of glasses if required for VDU use.

Offering an eyecare benefit helps organisations meet these health and safety requirements.

Employers are also advised to consider extending optical benefits to staff that drive on business. Although it is the employee’s own responsibility to have their eyes checked, if, because of defective eyesight, an employee had a fatal car accident while driving on business, their employer could be held liable under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 for failing to offer them an eye test.

There have been a number of product updates and launches in the eyecare market in the past year.

National Dental Plan has improved its corporate optical insurance plan by offering additional benefits to employees and their spouse or partner.

Meanwhile, US eyecare provider Vision Service Plan has extended its eyecare offering to the UK. It is working with the UK’s Association of Optometrists and the National Eyecare Group to promote awareness of the importance of eye examinations and corrective eyewear as a health and wellbeing benefit for employees.

The format of corporate eyecare schemes can vary: employers may provide eye tests in-house or offer them through a local private or high-street optician.

Vouchers are the most popular way to provide eyecare benefits. They are often prepaid; one example is Specsavers Corporate Eyecare services, for which employers pay upfront for the vouchers they think they will need, but will receive a refund for any that are not used.

Voucher schemes are now usually implemented online via a provider’s website, which provides instant access to vouchers. These can be passed on to the employee via an email or text message on enabled smartphones, to use to pay for an eye test.

Costs vary across schemes. Specsavers’ prices start from £17 for its e-voucher, ASE Corporate Eyecare charges £25 for its EyecarePlan Solo and Vision Express charges £15.

But not all schemes require upfront outlay. For example, Boots Optician Corporate Eyecare and Optical Express will issue eye test vouchers costing £10 and £15, respectively. The employer will then be invoiced monthly for vouchers that are used.

Health cash plans that include optical benefits such as eye tests can also help employers meet their legal responsibilities. But organisations could be caught out by a cash plan if an employee has already used their optical benefit but wants an eye test because of vision problems when using a computer.


The facts

What is corporate eyecare?
Employers have a legal obligation to fund eye tests and prescription glasses for staff that use VDUs. These requirements can be met in several ways, including vouchers, cash reimbursements and by setting up an arrangement with a local optician.

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Where can employers get more information?
The Health and Safety Executive publishes The law on VDUs: An easy guide, which outlines employers’ responsibilities under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations.

Who are the main providers?
The main providers are ASE Corporate Eyecare, Boots, Edenred, Intelligent Corporate Eyecare, Optical Express, Specsavers and Vision Express. In the past year, National Dental Plan has strengthened its corporate eyecare cover and VSP Vision Care launched its corporate eyecare services in the UK.