Eyecare obligations highlight communication needs

Onerous workplace obligations around eye care have led employers to think extremely carefully about their employee communications, says Nick Golding

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Legislation places a responsibility on employers to provide computer screen users with an eyesight test if they request one and at regular intervals thereafter.

One-voucher eyecare products cut out the administrative role of employers.

Organisations can control employee use of an eye care product by varying the levels of their communication.

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However eyecare products are offered to employees, it can be difficult for employers to work out whether they are gaining the best return on investment.

Certain products are best suited to specific types of organisation, and there are ways to control the amount that is being spent to ensure the best possible return.

Some traditional eye care products can be bogged down with paperwork, invoicing, reimbursements and form processing, which incur extra manpower and thus costs.

However, new products have been engineered to reduce the role employers have to play and allow organisations to run a more cost-effective plan. These are the schemes that employers should look out for, says Adrian Taylor, director of corporate healthcare at Specsavers.

"New schemes eliminate the processing and sending of invoices for organisations, as providers are now harmonising the paperwork, reducing it as much as possible by producing one simple voucher," he explains.

The one-voucher system gives employees the power to visit an optician and choose the glasses they want without having to gain permission from their employer. Organisations are not legally required to pay for employees’ eyewear unless special glasses or products are needed, but giving a voucher towards the costs can be a valued perk.

When setting up an eye care scheme, it is important to assess the make-up of your company and match this with the legal issues that surround those employees, says Raman Sankaran, director of strategic development at HealthSure.

Should this match not be made, there could not only be financial consequences for employers, but legal ones, too. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 places a responsibility on employers to provide regular eyesight tests for VDU (visual display unit) users at regular intervals if they request them.

"Different employees require different cover, so the nature of the workforce is an area to focus on when looking at getting the best return on investment.

"There are flexible products available that can suit companies with a range of employees, such as company car drivers and VDU users," he says.

Once the most suitable scheme is in place, it is essential that employers are effective and strategic in the way they communicate the changes to staff if they are to get the best return on their investment.

For those who want the scheme to be used by all employees as and when they like, communication must be strong. Suzanne Clarkson, head of corporate marketing at HSA, explains: "Communication is definitely key. It depends on how the particular company operates and how it talks to its staff, but we have found that the intranet and messages on payslips are effective."

But, for those employers who want to keep a tighter grip on the amount spent on eye care, communication can be toned down to limit products use, explains Specsaver’s Taylor. "Employers can use communication like a tap – increase it to reach all employees or decrease it to restrict the scheme to those who need it to ensure that the product use is in line with organisational budgets, and keeps the benefit cost effective," he adds.