Are employers blind to the benefits of eyecare?



Despite overwhelming evidence of the importance and relevance to staff of providing eyecare support very few UK businesses directly invest in this type of protection for their staff.


Employees spend an average of 2,740 hours (or three-and a-half months) every year staring at a screen, with 90% saying they regularly suffer from screen fatigue-headaches, sore or tired eyes, and problems with close-up and long-distance vision, an obvious problem that can effect performance and profitability.


The scale of the potential problem is shown by figures that 74% of people wear corrective eyewear or have had laser surgery1. Also that 1 in 10 British adults have never had an eye examination2.


Under current legislation employers have a duty-of-care for employee eye tests under Health and Safety Regulations. This includes providing access to free eye tests for all employees who use a visual display screen, or VDU. Few employers however go any further that the statutory minimum despite additionally eye examinations detecting signs of vision problems and wider health conditions before they advance, increasing productivity and saving money for employers. 123 Million workdays are lost per year across Europe3.


What is often not realised however is the benefit to your general overall health that can come from a regular eye exam.


A routine visit to the optician can help detect signs of serious health conditions including diabetes, but also high cholesterol and in some cases, even more serious conditions such as brain tumors.


An eye exam can be the first clue to detecting diabetes and other hidden health concerns. Finding these issues early can give a better chance at preventing damage through early intervention and management.


Diabetes is an illness that is estimated to cost £8.4 billion per year in absenteeism4. Every two minutes, a person in the United Kingdom is diagnosed with diabetes1


New estimates by the International Diabetes Federation show that one tenth of the world’s population will be affected by the disease by 2040. As those living with diabetes continue to struggle with the toll it takes on their health and overall wellbeing, it’s easy to overlook an important preventative health care tool that can help detect diabetes earlier and lead to better health outcomes: a comprehensive eye exam.


This seemingly simple eye examination is critical as diabetes, as a disease, causes spikes in blood sugar that weaken and damage blood vessels over time, a symptom that often shows up first in the swelling, leaking, and bleeding of capillaries in the retina in the back of the eye.  Damage accumulates over time, leading to blurred vision and, in some cases, vision loss.  By dilating the pupils, opticians have a unique and unobstructed view of these tiny capillaries and can detect signs of diabetes, sometimes even before you’re aware of the condition.


Indeed, opticians are uniquely positioned to detect diabetes in its beginning phases when it can still be managed and its impacts lessened.


Diabetes is a costly and debilitating disease, expected to impact five million people in the UK by 20253. But beyond the medical impact, as diabetes rates rise, there is also a staggering economic toll on productivity. The London School of Economics reported in 2012 that the estimated annual cost of absenteeism due to diabetes is £8.4 billion per year in the UK, while the cost due to early retirement is £6.9 billion4.


Suzanne Randall, Market Director (UK and Ireland) of vision benefits provider, VSP, commented” With all the challenges facing UK employers with staff wellbeing and benefit engagement, poor vision doesn’t have to be one of them. Offering vision care provides an affordable, high-value eye care benefit for employees which can help improve productivity, health and wellness, and employee engagement.”

      Suzanne Randall, VSP’s Marketing Director


According to Eyecare Trust, one in 10 British adults has never had an eye exam. Others wait until there is a change in their vision, forgoing the preventative benefits. Estimates indicate that there are 1.1 million people in the UK with diabetes who have yet to be diagnosed.5  Since they are unaware of their condition, they often go untreated and the disease progresses, damaging their vision.


As the diabetes epidemic in the UK continues to spread, the value of a comprehensive eye exam has become increasingly clear. Early disease detection through a comprehensive eye exam offers opportunities for disease management and prevention of blindness and serious illness, all while helping minimize productivity loss. Vision care offers a powerful health tool to individuals and employers alike, ensuring healthy vision while also providing critical overall health insights.


advo, as employee benefits specialists can guide you to the best solution for your staff.




  2. Study commissioned by VSP and conducted by HCMS from November to December 2012. Study sample consisted of randomly selected, geographically representative shops with nearly 850 private-practice independent optometrist locations and nearly 450 retail chain locations
  3. Figures based on AHPO diabetes prevalence model




VSP is a non for profit vision benefits organization offering a full range of optical benefits to help people see all around the World.  You can find out more about VSP here.