CJEU decision: employer must reimburse the cost of spectacles for those working at a display screen

The CJEU has ruled that spectacles for those working at a display screen equipment must be provided by the employer or that the employer must reimburse the related expenses. Interpreting the provisions of Article 9 of Directive 90/270/EEC which aims to protect the eyes and eyesight of workers, the Court ruled that:

  • The term “corrective appliances” includes not only spectacles, but also other types of appliances capable of correcting or preventing visual difficulties;
  • The visual difficulties do not necessarily have to be caused by working with display screen equipment for the employee to benefit from a special corrective appliance;
  • The corrective appliance must not be used exclusively in the workplace or in the performance of professional tasks;
  • A general salary increase, paid on a continuous basis for arduous working conditions, does not cover the expenses incurred by the worker concerned for such a purchase.

The Romanian court referred to the CJEU a series of preliminary questions concerning Directive 90/270 on the minimum health and safety requirements for working with display screen equipment.

As regards the facts, a Romanian citizen working at a display screen claimed that working at a display screen and other risk factors had caused a serious deterioration of his eyesight and requested reimbursement of the cost of his spectacles. His claim was rejected.

Being referred to by the Romanian court with a series of preliminary questions, the CJEU held that article 9 para. 3 of Directive 90/270 must be interpreted as meaning that the “special corrective appliances” referred to in that provision include spectacles specifically intended to correct and prevent visual difficulties associated with an activity involving display screen equipment. On the other hand, these “special corrective appliances” are not limited to appliances used exclusively in a professional context. The Court also held that the visual difficulties need not necessarily be caused by working at the display screen for the employee to benefit from a special corrective appliance.

At the same time, the Court held that Article 9 para. 3 and 4 of Directive 90/270 must be interpreted as meaning that the employer’s obligation to provide the workers in question with a special corrective appliance, laid down in that provision, may be fulfilled either by the employer providing the appliance directly or by reimbursing the necessary expenses incurred by the worker, but not by paying a general increase in the worker’s salary.

In Romania, the legislation already established this obligation for employers by HG 1028/2006 but using the phrase “special corrective appliance (apparatus)”, a phrase which was interpreted by the CJEU.

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