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Guidance for employers

Employing an optician

This page provides guidance for employers on the checks that they should carry out with the General Optical Council (GOC) before employing an optometrist or a dispensing optician , and the checks that should be carried out after employment has started.

For simplicity, in this guidance we use the blanket term ‘optician’ to refer to both optometrists and dispensing opticians, except where additional clarity is necessary.

The following information is provided to help employers carry out their checks. These guidance notes are not regulations.
 

1. GOC registration

We maintain registers of all opticians who are qualified and fit to practise in the United Kingdom. There are also separate GOC registers for student optometrists/dispensing opticians, and businesses using titles protected by the Optical Act 1989 (bodies corporate). Being a registered optometrist or dispensing optician allows a registrant to use the appropriate title and conduct the activities restricted to that role.

Dispensing is partially deregulated – an unregistered individual can dispense spectacles, and can perform the restricted activities of a dispensing optician (dispensing to children and the visually impaired) if under appropriate supervision. In order to dispense contact lenses, dispensing opticians are required to undergo specialist training and have that specialty registered with the GOC.

In addition to any other necessary pre-employment checks, optical employers should always check an optician’s current registration status with the GOC before completing an offer of employment.
 

2. Checking an optician's registration status

What to check

The pre-employment checks that all employers should carry out with the GOC before employing an optician are summarised below:
• Is the optician currently registered with the GOC?
• If the optician is hoping to perform specialty tasks, do they have the appropriate specialty recorded on their entry on the register?
• Do any conditions or restrictions apply to the optician’s registration?
• Is the optician currently under investigation regarding their fitness to practise?
• Does the GOC number the optician has given you match the details shown on the GOC's online register?

An optician must be registered with us before they can actually start working, and you must confirm their current status on the GOC register before allowing the optician to start work.

Do not rely on a locum agency to check an optician's current status on the register for you.

If an optician has previously been employed elsewhere in the UK, you still need to check their registration details, as their status on the register may have changed since they were last employed.

How to check

Our publicly-searchable online register gives up-to-date information on an optician's registration details and current registration status (eg whether any current conditions have been applied to their registration following by the Fitness to Practise Committee).

The register can be accessed here.

Please note: a Certificate of Registration (which can be requested by a registrant at any time following registration) is not evidence that an optician is currently registered with the GOC. An optician’s registration status can change at any time.

We do not, therefore, recommend that employers accept a Certificate of Registration as part of their pre-employment check processes. You should always check the optician’s current status on the register yourself on the GOC website before employing them.

‘Letters of good standing’: Checking past fitness to practise details and whether an optician is currently under investigation

We recommend that employers check whether an optician is currently being investigated by us before completing an offer of employment. The public register does not provide details about whether a registrant is currently under an investigation regarding their fitness to practise. Current investigation status can be checked by completing an application form and sending it to our Registration Department.

The application form for a check on a registrant's status is available here

We will provide you with a letter setting out the registrant’s full GOC registration and fitness to practise history and current investigation status (known as a ‘letter of good standing’). To avoid any possibility of fraud, you should request this letter directly from us yourself. Do not ask your prospective employees to supply a GOC letter of good standing themselves as part of their employment application. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the content of any letter we have not supplied to you directly.

Please note that as information in these letters is not public, we ask you to include written consent from the registrant for us to disclose this information to you. The application form includes a section for the registrant to complete providing this consent; alternatively you can attach a separate consent form to the application. If the registrant refuses to provide such consent, we may still be able to disclose information to you if it is in the public interest for us to do so.

Checking an optician's identity

A Certificate of Registration, letter of good standing, Certificate of Current Professional Status or similar is not evidence of an optician's identity. You must undertake your own identity checks before employing an optician, for example, ask for their original passport or an original EEA identity card.

If you have any doubts about an optician's identity, please contact us.

GOC numbers

When an optician registers with us, either as a student or as a fully-registered optometrist or dispensing optician, they are given a reference number (a ‘GOC number’). Having a GOC number does not mean that the optician is currently on the register or is fit to practise. It is therefore important that you check the optician's registration with us. You also need to do this to ensure that the GOC number you have been given is correct, and that it belongs to the person that you want to employ. Under no circumstances should an optician use another registrant’s GOC number.

3. Checks during employment

What to check

Opticians may be erased from the register for administrative reasons, such as failure to pay their annual retention fee. We therefore recommend that you make regular checks of our online register for all opticians in your employment, to minimise any unnecessary disruption to your services caused by such removals.

We produce a monthly report summarising all amendments to the registers, including removals for administrative reasons and all new sanctions imposed by the Fitness to Practise Committee. When an optician’s registration is suspended by order of the Fitness to Practise Committee, our current practise is to remove that registrant’s name and record from the public registers for the period of that suspension.

We also produce annual removals lists at the beginning of each retention period, listing the registrants who have not renewed their GOC registration or have been removed for other reasons (such as not meeting CET requirements). Employers can quickly check the status of their employees against these searchable lists.

These reports are available here.

Fitness to practise

We will pro-actively inform you if an optician you are employing becomes subject to a GOC investigation regarding their fitness to practise. Please note that we will only be able to do this if the registrant concerned provides details of their employment to us.

You should inform us if you are concerned that the fitness to practise of an optician that you are employing or contracting with may be impaired. We will then open an investigation, and ask you to provide us with sufficient information for the matter to be considered by our Investigation Committee. For more information please see the following booklet:

Acrobat Reader icon Fitness to practise guidance for employers

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Registrants can update their contact details, log CET points or complete their annual retention.

Registration forms

Registration forms

Download any of our registration forms, including restoration, specialty and student transfer.

About registration

Read about the importance of checking an optician's registration