Optometric Management Tip # 387   -   Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Employee Benefits: Eye Care Services and Products

Continuing with our series on employment benefits, let's look at eye care services for staff members. Obviously, since you provide eye care, you can provide a nice employment benefit to your staff at no direct cost. But it's best to define the policy clearly in writing so all staff understand and do not take advantage of the practice.

Most eye care practitioners provide professional services at no charge to the employee and possibly for immediate family members. Optical materials are often provided at the actual lab cost, although some practices provide a pair of glasses or supply of contact lenses completely free, and some may simply provide a discount off the usual price of materials rather than bother with tracking the actual lab cost.

The exact policy is up to you, of course, but I would design a benefit that employees feel is generous. Free eye care is a strong perk that comes with working for an eye doctor!

Fine tuning your policy

Here are some concerns to watch for:

A sample policy

Upon completion of a 30 day waiting period, eye care services will be provided to employees and their immediate families at no cost. Optical materials will be provided at our office's wholesale cost or complimentary when available from the manufacturers. Family members who qualify for this benefit are spouses and children under the age of 23. An employee's mother, father, brothers, sisters, and children over the age of 23 shall receive a 25% discount off of normal professional and material fees (contact lenses are excluded from this program and are not discounted).

Whenever an employee or family member receives eye care benefits at no charge or at cost, or at a 25% discount, a cost authorization form must be requested from the office manager. This form should be completed and approved by the manager prior to examination purchase or start of a lab order. The cost authorization form shall then be returned to the office manager's desk the same day that services are rendered.

All materials must be paid in full at the time of dispensing.

If any materials are to be received complimentary (or at special discounts) from a supplier, they must be ordered specifically for the employee and not taken from stock. The supplier must be willing to extend the same courtesy to all employees, or the materials cannot be accepted.

An important side point

Labs and suppliers who are willing to give free products to our staff are much appreciated, but it prompts me to mention the potential problem of key employees accepting gifts and rebates from suppliers. I recommend that your practice have a clear policy prohibiting this practice and requiring all gifts and rewards to be sent to the practice owner. You may then distribute the gifts in an equitable manner if you wish or keep the reward as a perk of ownership.

Many eye care practitioners have had the experience where they did not even know that a supplier was giving gifts to an employee who makes buying decisions for the practice, because the gifts are sent to a personal residence. There are obvious conflicts of interest with this reward system. Talk with your staff to be sure this isn't happening and review your policy with your sales reps.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management