Should My Employer Pay For My Glasses & Eye Tests?

Should your boss pay for your glasses or eye test?

The answer to this question depends very much on the type of work you do. If you work with Display Screen Equipment (DSE), and need corrective lenses exclusively to do your job, your employer must pay. If an ordinary prescription happens to allow you to perform DSE work, your employer does not have to pay for your spectacles.

We can’t seem to go anywhere without seeing a screen these days. It’s not just office workers that are affected. It’s easy to forget that home workers, retail workers, and designers are also exposed to screens on a daily basis.  On average UK adults spend up to 9.5 hours a day looking at screens, a lot of that time is spent doing their jobs.

Employer’s obligations

The obligations of employers are established in the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations, introduced in 1992 and amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations in 2002 and again in 2007. The regulations state that any employee who uses a display screen at their workstation, on their computer numerical control display, on a machine tool or even at a supermarket till is a DSE user for the purposes of the regulations.

Eye Strain at Work

Eye fatigue and eye strain can be caused by:

  • Poor positioning of your screen
  • Poor lighting, including glare and reflections
  • Poor legibility of the screen or source documents
  • Staying in the same position and concentrating for a long time

The same is true for employees working off-site, who are still the responsibility of their employers are included in these provisions, whether or not the visual display unit (VDU) equipment they use is provided by the company.

How does working at a screen affect my eyes?

Medical evidence shows that using DSE does not cause damage to eyes or eyesight, nor does it make existing defects worse. However, some DSE users experience temporary eye fatigue, with symptoms including blurred vision, red or sore eyes and headaches. Eye fatigue may also lead you to slouch or adopt awkward postures, which may cause discomfort in other parts of your body. While using a screen does not cause eye damage, it may make employees with pre-existing vision defects, which are not corrected, more aware of them.

Your employer has a responsibility to make sure that you are able to safely perform your job. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an HR manager or professional lion tamer, your employer owes you a duty of care. So, if you’re having trouble seeing screens at work and you are worried about your eye health and productivity, speak to your employer about an eye test.

Do employers have to pay for eye tests?

Legal Requirements – DSE Regulations

If you work with DSE, such as computer screens, on a regular basis, you are entitled to ask your employer for a full eye examination and vision test. Regulation 5 of the DSE rules clearly states that employers must provide eye exam and vision tests, on request, to all current or new DSE users. The employer may specify where the test should be taken, allowing employers to work with opticians to provide the best levels of eye care.

Simple vision screening tests can be carried out for groups of employees on-site, but these do not satisfy the requirements of the DSE Regulations, and staff are still entitled to request a full eye test and sight test regardless of their outcome.

How much should my employer contribute to my glasses?

To comply with DSE Regulations, your employer must pay the full cost of an eye test and the provision of basic spectacles where required.

Claiming the cost of your glasses from your employer

Typically, the employee will pay for the test and glasses up front and the employer will reimburse them. Some employers pay you back up front, while others will include the cost in your monthly pay cheque. Speak with your HR department for more information.