A major new survey of businesses across the Republic of Ireland has revealed that half of the country’s employees are not receiving basic statutory eyecare.
Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Regulations, employees who use a VDU (visual display unit) must be provided with company-funded eye tests and glasses if appropriate. Specsavers Corporate Eyecare’s survey has uncovered that nearly half (49%) of employers are not meeting this requirement.
Our survey suggests that misconceptions regarding costs may be a barrier to employers providing even the obligatory care. Only 7% of employers were able to estimate the correct cost of both an eye examination and spectacles; available for less than €20. Over two thirds (68%) wrongly believe an eye test and spectacles costs over €50 and nearly one third (31%) believe the cost to be over €100. It is not surprising, therefore, that employees are missing out as few employers would be keen to provide company-funded eyecare at these perceived prices.
Employers’ lack of understanding as to the options available for providing eyecare may also be impacting on employees. Of those employers that do offer company-funded eyetests to screen-users, nearly half (47%) reimburse via expenses and over a third (35%) have no formal administration system in place. Costs for eye tests and corrective spectacles can vary hugely between opticians. An employer who does not have any eyecare policy in place or who does not stipulate its chosen provider may be leaving itself open to an unexpected and costly invoice from an employee who has visited their own optician. Employees are advised to check with their employer regarding their company policy on eyecare.
Despite it being compulsory for employers to offer eyecare to screen-users, it is still possible for this obligation to also become a valuable reward for the employee. There are many added extras available to employees at no extra cost to their employer. These can, however, only be of benefit if employers are aware of their availability .
Our survey found that three quarters (75%) of employers did not know of any additional financial benefits, available at no extra cost, with corporate eyecare vouchers. Only 15% were aware of discount vouchers with money off glasses for employees and just 4% knew that these discounts are also available for employees’ friends and families. Only 15% were aware that those receiving company-funded eyecare are still eligible for two-for-one deals and only 2% knew that they are entitled to free upgrades, such as reactions lenses or designer frames.
Employers themselves still recognise the worth of eyecare, with more than half (51%) of the employers who do not offer company-funded eye tests, still stating they believe their employees would value eyecare as much as other benefits, if not more. It would seem to be employers’ wrongly perceived cost of eyecare and a lack of knowledge of how to implement a scheme which is stopping employees from receiving the proper care. Only an enlightened 12% of employers use eyecare vouchers, enabling them to offer consistent care at an established low cost, with virtually no administration.
A greater understanding of the options for eyecare is the answer to breaking down the barriers to provision and could well result in benefits for employers and employees alike.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 can be found via www.hsa.ie. Chapter 5 of part 2 covers Display Screen Equipment.
More information about the VDU regulations and eyecare vouchers can be found by visiting www.specsavers.ie/corporate.
By Dona McLafferty, corporate account manager for Specsavers Corporate Eyecare in the Republic of Ireland.