The creation of the internet and advancements in computer technology mean that the vast majority of office-based staff now work in front of display screen equipment (DSE) for a significant proportion of their day.
While this technology has had a positive effect on business processes and made global conversations easier than ever, it also means that some staff are spending much more time sat down looking at a screen.
As a result, employers have an obligation to comply with the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, which means ensuring that all staff are provided with suitable workstations to operate from and access to eyecare and vision correction, where appropriate.
What are the rules around DSE?
Although there is no evidence to suggest that DSE work causes any permanent damage to eyes, long spells of it can lead to tired eyes, discomfort, temporary short-sightedness and headaches.
All monitors are covered by DSE regulations. Portable DSE such as laptops and handheld devices are also subject to the regulations if in prolonged use for work purposes.
People who habitually use portable DSE should be trained in how to minimise risks, for example by sitting comfortably, angling the screen so it’s easy to read and taking frequent breaks. Wherever possible, portable DSE should be placed on a solid surface at a comfortable height.
Employers are obligated to assess DSE workstations and correct any defects, which means ensuring screens are well positioned and properly adjusted, and that lighting conditions are suitable.
What does a DSE assessment cover?
The assessment and subsequent action must cover the following:
- the whole workstation including equipment, furniture, and the work environment
- the job being done
- any special needs of individual staff
- where risks are identified, taking steps to reduce them
- ensuring workstations meet minimum requirements
- planning of work so there are regular breaks or changes of activity
- on request, arrangement of eye tests and provision of spectacles if special ones are needed
- provision of health and safety training and information
What are employees entitled to?
Staff are entitled to ask their employer to provide an eye test if they habitually use DSE as a significant part of their normal day-to-day work. This is a full eye test by an optometrist or a doctor.
If the test shows that they need special corrective appliances such as glasses or contact lenses that are prescribed for the distance the screen is viewed at, employers have to pay towards them. If an ordinary prescription is suitable for the DSE work, the employer does not have to contribute.
In cases where tests show that users need glasses specifically for DSE work, employers must pay the cost of a basic frame and the prescribed lenses. However, if the user chooses a more expensive frame, the employer is not obliged to pay for it but may opt to contribute a portion equal to the cost of the basic product.
Arrangements for covering the cost of eyecare may differ – employers can ask employees to arrange tests themselves and then claim the costs back from the company, organise them through a specific optician, or even have them conducted on site.
What can companies do to cut the costs?
Companies looking to cut the cost of eyecare and offer an attractive staff benefit may find that taking a proactive approach helps.
This can include implementing an employer-paid health care cash plan, which offers cash back on a range of everyday health costs and treatment for a small monthly cost, including eye tests and eyecare.
The employer-paid Asset cash plan from Sovereign Health Care offers cash back on a wide range of check-ups and treatment, including optical and dental, physiotherapy, homeopathy, health screening and much more.
From just £6.35 per employee, per month, not only does it help businesses meet DSE regulations, it also supports duty of care obligations, with an Employee Assistance Programme included as standard that offers confidential support, assistance and counselling to help employees deal with a range of life events.
To find out more about Asset and our range of cash plans for businesses, visit