Do Employers Have to Pay For Prescription Safety Glasses?

Q. I have just had my first eye test and require glasses. I work on a VDU but also I am in an engineering workshop that requires eye protection. Question: What does my employer have to pay for by law: eye test, safety glasses or both?

(S.S, 2 April 2021)

a pair of safety glasses

A. Some parts of this question are little bit of a grey area in terms of employment law. There are specific Employment Law guidelines regarding eye tests and potential payment for glasses.

The VDU work aspect of your employment means your employer should pay for your eye test. If you require a special prescription to use your work terminal, this cost should also be covered by your employer.

However, there’s no legal guidance for prescription safety glasses. If you require safety goggles for your job, you may be expected to wear “over glasses”.

I’ll look at all these points in more detail below.


Requirements For PPE

Your employer must provide any PPE needed to keep you safe at work. This includes safety glasses.

However, as above it may not be necessary for your safety glasses to have a prescription. There are safety glasses that are specially designed to fit over your existing safety glasses. These must be of good quality (CE stamped) and should be fitted and provided for free by your employer.

There are specialist prescription safety glasses available. If you feel these would suit your needs in the workplace better, it’s worth negotiating with your employer.

Eye safety at work is part of your employer’s duty of care. If they do not provide the correct protective eyewear for your job, they may leave themselves open to legal action.


Employer Paying For Eye Tests

In terms of your employer paying for your eye test, as discussed above, your employer should cover this cost because of your VDU work.

The current employment law rules say that employers must pay for an eye test at least once every two years for employees that spend a ‘considerable’ amount of time at a computer for the purpose of their work.

Your VDU work should be for at least an hour per day to qualify for your employer paying for your eye testing.


Employer Paying For Prescription Glasses

Your employer will only have to pay for prescription glasses if they are needed ‘solely for work at a VDU.

If you fit this requirement, your employer only needs to cover the cost of basic frames (the really basic ones!) and single-vision lenses.


Check Your Employee Handbook

Some employers give their glasses-wearing staff an allowance towards their glasses. Check if your workplace has a policy on this.

If your employer is offering help with costs of eye tests and / or safety glasses, you may need to pay for the test and then get reimbursed by your employer. They may also require you to attend an eye examination at an optician of their choice.

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