Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, explains why employer-funded eyecare offers healthcare benefits that extend beyond eyesight protection.
Statutory Eyecare Obligations
For HR professionals, the requirements to provide company-funded eyecare should be well known. There are employer obligations for screen users, drivers and those needing safety eyewear. There are, however, many other reasons to provide employee eyecare, aside from the conditions set by the health and safety regulations.
A full eye examination does much more than simply check the ability to see. While it may be fairly obvious that the optometrist can also check the health of the eyes, and look for signs of eye conditions like glaucoma and cataract, it may not be quite so well known that eye examinations can reveal a great deal about the patient’s overall health.
Less than 1/3 of employees are aware of conditions an eye examination can reveal
In fact, Specsavers Corporate Eyecare carried out research* into this very area and found that just 32% of employers, less than one third, believed employees are aware of the health conditions that an eye examination can detect.
It is often said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. When it comes to eye examinations, they are actually windows to the small blood vessels, called capillaries, in the back of the eye. Blood vessels run throughout the body and can tell medical experts a great deal about a person’s health. It is, however, only in the eyes that these vessels are visible, without the need for invasive exploration.
Diabetes, Raised Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, Cardiovascular Disease, Thyroid Problems and MS
To view the capillaries at the back of the eye, an optometrist uses an ophthalmoscope, which is a simple torch-like device. Using this, he or she can check whether any of the capillaries have thickened, narrowed or burst. These are all indicators of changes in blood pressure and can be indicative of such systemic conditions as diabetes, raised cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, thyroid problems, and multiple sclerosis, as just a few examples.
While symptoms of such conditions may become more obvious eventually, a routine eye examination at an opticians may enable the early detection and, therefore, earlier treatment of what are quite serious conditions.
Early detection of significant illnesses and conditions can have a great positive impact upon the health and wellbeing of employees. There is also, however, the positive impact for the business in potential reduced absenteeism.
Eyecare is such a simple and inexpensive benefit but the positive implications of this care reach far and wide. As an employee benefit it is highly valued by employees and employers alike. Our research went on to look at the cost of eyecare relative to its merits in detecting systemic health conditions. Employers were asked how they would rate the value for money that eyecare represents, with 58% stating that they believe it represents excellent value for money, and 35% as good value for money.
Employers need to communicate their eyecare benefits
The key is for employers to actually communicate the eyecare benefits and the benefits of eyecare. Communicating the eyecare benefits made available through the company will encourage uptake, with both the employer and employee gaining from the positive impact on health and wellbeing. Communicating the benefits of eyecare can help to raise morale among employees as they realise the significance of the care with which they are being provided.
* The research was conducted on behalf of Specsavers Corporate Eyecare by eMedia in May 2016, among 106 heads of UK companies, representing between 255,156 and 434,106 employees.