Employers with vision will help employees with eye care. Indeed, in many cases it is a legal requirement.
A wealth of research suggests that employers who don’t pay sufficient attention to helping employees look after their eyesight are themselves guilty of being a little short-sighted.
For example, a recent study by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare asked over 500 HR decision makers what they considered to be the main advantages of offering workplace eye care.
42% of respondents cited improved health and wellbeing, due to the early detection of illnesses through an eye examination; 37% cited improved productivity, due to a reduction of ailments such as headaches and tired eyes; and 35% believed improved morale to be the key advantage.
Offering employees regular eye examinations can, in addition to testing the eyesight and checking the health of the eye, help detect illnesses and conditions like diabetes, heart disease, tumours and risk of stroke and combat problems like headaches, migraine and dry or tired eyes.
Furthermore, when employees use display screen equipment, employers are actually obliged to give them eye tests under the many requirements of the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (amended 2002).
These regulations apply to all alphanumeric and graphic display screens. They include conventional cathode-ray tube screens and modern varieties such as liquid crystal and plasma, used in flat screens and touch screens, as well as any portable display screen equipment in prolonged use.
The latter may include laptops, handheld computers, digital personal assistant devices and portable communication devices. Smartphones may often therefore be relevant on the grounds that they may be in prolonged use to view the internet, compose texts and read emails.
The regulations state that the tests must take place when requested by the employees using display screen equipment and from then onwards at intervals specified by the optometrist. The employer must fund the full costs and, if it is found that glasses are required solely for display screen equipment use, the costs of these as well.
Some large employers simply self-insure against such potential expenses whereas others pay for them via private medical insurance (PMI) schemes. Not all PMI schemes offer optical cover but some of the more sophisticated ones do, particularly international schemes used by multi-nationals.
Neither approach is necessarily viable for small employers but Chase de Vere’s advisers can discuss a range of options that can be used to pay for eye care, ranging from eye care vouchers to health cash plans.
Health cash plans, which can cost as little as £1 per employee per week, can be a particularly attractive option for SMEs because, as well as paying out towards the costs of eye check-ups and glasses, they also cover a range of other healthcare needs that can help tackle absenteeism and presenteeism costs.
These include dental check-ups and treatment, specialist consultations and complementary and alternative medicines. Many health cash plans also provide an employee assistance programme (EAP) offering confidential telephone-based (and typically also face-to-face) counselling to help combat stress problems before they become full blown absenteeism issues.
But helping employees with eye care does not always have to cost money. There are also many free tips that employers of any size can pass on.
These include: taking fifteen-minute breaks from computer screens every few hours; turning down the brightness on screens to reduce the amount of blue light; placing computer screens around 20 inches from users’ faces; and suggesting that the tops of screens are level with the users’ noses – so they are looking down on them.
Many experts also advocate introducing the ‘20/20/20’ rule. This involves employees taking 20 second breaks at 20-minute intervals and using them to focus their vision on something 20 feet away.
Pointing employees in the direction of the right diets can also help their eyesight and, contrary to popular belief, this does not involve recommending eating tons of carrots!
The most appropriate foods are rich in Vitamin C and E, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. For example, oily fish, green leafy vegetables, eggs, nuts, beans and citrus fruits or juices.