A recent CJEU decision states that the employer must reimburse the price of the employee’s spectacles. What are the conditions?
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on 22 December 2022, in case C-392/21, that the spectacles intended for those working with display screen equipment must be provided to the worker by the employer or the employer must reimburse the costs. The CJEU judgment is binding on all national courts dealing with an identical issue.
The CJEU, which is responsible for verifying the conformity of national legislation with EU law, has been asked by the Court of Appeal Cluj to give a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of the provisions of Directive 90/270/EEC on the minimum safety and health requirements for work with display screen equipment.
Thus, in Case C-392/21 – TJ, an employee, a Romanian national, brought proceedings against the General Inspectorate for Immigration (the employer) after he had asked the employer to reimburse the cost of his spectacles and his request was rejected. TJ claimed that working at a monitor and other risk factors (absence of natural light, neuropsychic overstrain) had caused his visual acuity to deteriorate.
The CJEU stated that the provisions of Directive 90/270/EEC are to be interpreted as follows:
- “special corrective appliances” include spectacles aimed specifically at the correction and prevention of visual difficulties relating to work involving display screen equipment. Moreover, those “special corrective appliances” are not limited to appliances used exclusively for professional purposes, and
- the employer’s obligation, laid down in that provision, to provide the workers concerned with a special corrective appliance, may be met by the direct provision of the appliance to the worker by the employer or by reimbursement of the necessary expenses incurred by the worker, but not by the payment of a general salary supplement to the worker.
What is the basis of the obligation to bear the cost of spectacles?
The obligation stems from the provisions of Government Decision no. 1028/2006 on the minimum health and safety requirements for the use of display screen equipment (GD no. 1028/2006) which transposes Directive 90/270/EEC and requires employers to provide special corrective appliances if normal corrective appliances cannot be used.
Which employees are entitled to the reimbursement of the cost of spectacles?
Employees for whom it is necessary both to correct and prevent visual difficulties that are related to an activity involving display screen equipment (laptop, tablet etc.) and whose visual difficulties have been established by a proper eye and eyesight examination and where working at display screen equipment is not necessarily the cause of such difficulties.
What is a proper eye and eyesight examination and when is it carried out?
According to Government Decision no. 1028/2006, employees must have a proper eye and eyesight examination: (i) before starting work at the visual display screen, through the medical examination on recruitment; (ii) at regular intervals thereafter; (iii) whenever visual difficulties occur which may be caused by work at the visual display screen. We consider that the occupational physician is competent to perform these examinations.
If the results of the above examinations show that it is necessary, employees will be given an ophthalmological examination.
If the results of the examination by the occupational physician or the examination by the ophthalmologist show that it is necessary, employees must be provided with special corrective appliances appropriate to the work in question.
How can the employer bear the cost of the spectacles?
The employer has two options: either to provide the employee directly with the special corrective appliance or to reimburse the necessary expenses incurred by the employee.
Reimbursement of expenses incurred by the employee (i.e. the cost of lenses, frames and labor) will be made on the basis of supporting documents (i.e. invoice, receipt) and cannot be made through the payment of a general salary increase.
For the sake of transparency, we recommend the implementation of an internal policy regulating the conditions under which the cost of spectacles is borne by the employer.
What is the value of the special corrective appliance that the employer must bear?
The legal provisions in force do not specify the amount to be paid.
Since the CJEU decision refers to necessary expenses, we consider that the employer cannot be obliged to bear voluptuous expenses which do not justify the need to correct and prevent visual difficulties; moreover, burdening the employer with excessive costs is contrary to the principle of good faith governing employment relations.
We remind that the value of the spectacles (lenses, frame and labor) referred to in the CJEU Decision in Case C-392/21 was lei 2,629 (approximately 530 Euros) and was not criticized by the CJEU in any way.