See beyond the VDU legislation; Eyecare as an engagement tool
Since the introduction of the Display Screen Equipment Regulation in 1992, many articles have been written about the adoption and interpretation of the Regulation for regular users of VDUs within companies. This article aims to highlight what all companies in the country see of particular importance at the moment, namely the fine balance between saving money and engaging staff at a time when pay rises might be scarce and morale low.
The VDU Legislation is viewed by many companies as a burden and they adhere to it as an obligation. Whilst the obligation part is accurate, how you position the scheme and the choice you give to staff should actually lead to this being a valued employee benefit that can reduce administration costs and be used as part of a wider engagement and motivation policy and directive within a company.
Firstly, having your eyes tested is important. It is estimated that approximately 20 million people a year have their eyes tested and with the UK population a little under 62 million, this leaves a significant proportion of people who do not have their eyes regularly tested. The eyes are an important window to the health of the body, so having a test is not just a ticking the box exercise as many health conditions can first be seen with an eye examination.
The health side is particularly important from a workplace point of view – if someone has outdated prescription lenses in their glasses, or even needs glasses but does not wear them, then they could be taking time off work due to headaches, migraines or, in extreme cases, sickness. The cost to UK businesses of this sickness has not been measured, but it would be accurate to list this as a very significant sum.
Why have sight tests:
• Window to the health of the body
• Early detection for diabetes, degenerative eye conditions and even brain tumours
• Safety – reduce the trip or fall risk in your business
• Vital for your company car drivers
• Leave staff feeling valued and show that you care about their health
• Important addition to a benefits package to engage and motivate your workforce
“An important window to the health of the body”
With pay rises flat and the cost of living increasing, employees are looking for their place of work to be engaging and caring. Although this benefit is legislation based, a caring employer that informs employees that sight tests are available to all computer screen users demonstrates a commitment to staff wellbeing – too often this information is hidden on an intranet site buried as deep as possible to avoid “unnecessary costs”.
Our research has shown that a well implemented scheme can actually save organisations money. So many companies still have an inefficient employee reimbursement policy regarding sight tests and subsequently glasses.
These schemes still exist, often on an “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” mentality. More often than not these schemes are broken but because the sight test policy is not high on the agenda, an organisation might not even be aware it is causing a drain on company resources, especially when organisations are obligated to pay the full value of the glasses and are unable to cap costs.
Carefully planned, the implementation of a successful eyecare scheme can avoid wasting huge sums of money each year, whilst offering the chance to motivate and engage your workforce.
“Our research has shown that a well implemented scheme will save organisations money.”
Most opticians offer a better discount to companies rather than to individuals due to the increased buying power a company wields. A good example of this is a voucher product that allows access to a network or multiple networks of opticians. The discounts are pre-negotiated by the providers and sight tests can be offered for under £20 whereas the national average for a sight test is significantly higher than this. Indeed, recent research has shown that a sight test could cost as much as £60 and whilst some of the opticians at the higher end of the scale promote retinal photography as part of the test, it is important to note that some of the high street optician chains also offer this in their sight test and will include this when a purchase is made using a voucher.
• Simplicity – the voucher does exactly what it says; provides a sight test and glasses where necessary
• With the right supplier you can offer employees choice, which allows them to visit their preferred optician
• Fixed costs, easy budgeting
• Easy to understand scheme
• Leaves staff feeling they have been given a valuable wellbeing product
Another way that some companies believe they can avoid the costs of expense claims is to run an invoiced based system with opticians. Whilst this can control some of the costs as an optician can arrange a special deal for staff members, it greatly limits choice and may not be viewed as a true benefit for staff. The cost element also becomes hidden rather than transparent with invoicing and can often result in companies having to work out departmental cost centres and internal invoicing which, of course, just costs internal time and money.
The hidden costs of expense claims can be significant – one such instance was a Council who quoted £56 as a processing cost for an invoice to be paid. The costs arose from the varying time for each person in the approval chain to submit an invoice and then, more often than not being paid via the now antiquated method of cheques. A voucher can avoid nearly all these costs as payment is made up front and this provides you with a book of vouchers for you to issue to your staff when needed, thus cutting down on much of the administration.
“The hidden costs of expense claims can be significant” Simple steps to compliance and engagement
• A clearly communicated strategy
• Defined process, where to get vouchers and what to do with them
• Internal communication and advertising of the scheme to increase staff awareness
Another great advantage of the voucher scheme is that the employee feels invested in when a voucher is given as theycan use the optician of their choice, from a major chain to a small independent practice. Choice is vital and many people use the same optician time after time. The relationship with an optician can be likened to that of a dentist; you go to the person you trust and have confidence in. Forcing staff to go to a set optician for a sight test can damage the ability to use this as a motivational tool and may even result in the person not having the test, which has the health implications discussed earlier in this article.
The VDU Legislation should be seen as an opportunity. A carefully implemented scheme can form part of a valuable benefits package and the costs of this need not spiral out of control. There are many schemes out there and the voucher based scheme in particular allows choice, flexibility and a real sense for your employees that they are being invested in.
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