Opinion

VDU eyecare – clearing the confusion

On the face of it, the regulations regarding the use of VDUs and eyecare are pretty straightforward. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations have been in force since 1992 (amended in 2002) and require employers to provide all employees who use VDUs with eye tests, when requested, and glasses, if required, writes Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances for Specsavers Corporate Eyecare.

Recent research carried out by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare reveals, however, that 73% of UK companies are not complying with the regulations - a figure about which IT professionals are right to be concerned. Our research, conducted among 187 heads of companies, and representing up to 448,000 employees, shows that whilst employers are generally keen to offer an effective eyecare policy, there is still widespread misunderstanding of the regulations.

It is the funding of VDU eyecare that causes particular confusion. Our research reveals 53% of companies make a contribution to eyetests and glasses if required for VDU use; 13% will fund the eyetest but not the glasses; 2% will fund the glasses but not the eyetest; and 5% insist that the employee must meet the full cost themselves. This means a massive 73% of companies are not complying with the regulations, which clearly state that both the eyetest and glasses, if required for VDU use, should be wholly funded by the company. A point which is worth noting by the IT profession.

Much of the issue may well be the perceived cost of eyecare. Our research shows 16% of employers would expect to pay more than £100 for an eyetest plus glasses for VDU use and 71% would expect to pay more than £50. Only 13% correctly believe that this is actually achievable for less than £20. Compared to purchasing cost-effective VDU vouchers for as little as £17, this is perhaps an indication of just how many companies are paying way over the odds for basic eyecare.

The figures show that 36% of respondents have changed their purchasing decisions because of recent events such as the recession and the MPs' expenses scandal. It is an interesting link that eyecare vouchers are now seen as the obvious choice for administering an eyecare policy:

  • 65% of employers would select eyecare vouchers to cover their employees' eyecare needs because of the cost savings for the company
  • 64% would do so for the ease of use for employees
  • 53% would do so for consistency for all employees
  • 48% would do so for the savings on administration time for the employer
  • 21% would do so for the peripheral offers and discounts that come with the vouchers

VDU vouchers are a particularly effective way for companies to cover their obligations under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) regulations. One voucher can be purchased to cover both the eye examination and the glasses, if required for VDU use. While confusion still reigns, much time and effort can be spent by employers apparently cost-cutting by trying to exclude employees from eyecare schemes. Under the right scheme, a policy of inclusion is often actually the most beneficial approach both in terms of cost-effectiveness and of corporate responsibility.

For a copy of Specsavers Corporate Eyecare's guide to Display Screen Equipment Legislation, call 0115 933 0800 or e-mail corporateeyecare@uk.specsavers.com

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This was first published in December 2009

 

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