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May an employer compel a registered DO employee to be a supervisor?

U2.1.11 May an employer compel a registered DO employee to be a supervisor?


This month’s query was recently raised by a member: may an employer compel a registered DO employee to be a supervisor?

First, let’s look at what supervision actually entails. There are two types: one that involves working with an unregistered member of staff; and the more formal supervision of a trainee dispensing optician or a trainee contact lens optician. Both roles require a commitment from the supervisor that must be explained fully on starting employment with a company, and fully understood and appreciated by all parties.

When supervising an unqualified member of staff, an optical assistant (OA), for example, the OA and supervisor must understand the law relating to the supply of spectacles. In particular, they must be fully aware of the situation regarding children. It is important that they both appreciate that the supervisor must be on the premises and in a position to intervene at all times, and that the OA has been trained to understand the limits of their skills.

To be a formal supervisor of a trainee DO, or trainee CLO, it requires a commitment from the DO/CLO (or optometrist) with the training establishment, along with the employer and student, to ensure that while the student’s studies are fully respected, the protection of the public is also fully acknowledged.

While any fully qualified and registered DO/CLO (for a minimum of two consecutive years) may become a supervisor there can be no compulsion by an employer to require an employee to become a supervisor, unless of course it is in the terms of service within the employment contract.

Pressure can be brought to bear by managers suggesting that extra staff cannot be employed without agreement to take on supervision by qualified staff. This may be resisted; if there is sufficient need for more staff there is then justification for employing more qualified staff, be it on a locum basis as necessary. The locum staff must, again, be happy to supervise unregistered staff or trainees with the agreement of the training establishment. If it is a trainee CLO, a locum may not be a primary supervisor.

The responsibilities of supervision should not be treated lightly by employers or those being employed as it is they who carry the burden if a complaint is received and upheld by the General Optical Council. To understand fully what is involved as a supervisor of trainee DOs, it would be useful to study the ABDO website, the section on examinations and the sub-section on PQP, the pre-qualification period.