TQOTW: Employee Hearing Aid
My client has provided an employee with a hearing aid. Is this a Benefit in Kind?

Private use of equipment or services provided to employees is generally a benefit in Kind, unless you can show that it has been provided solely to enable the employee to carry out the duties of the employment and any private use by the employee is insignificant – s316 ITEPA 2003.

However, regulations (S.I.2002/1596) laid under powers in Section 210 ITEPA allow employers to provide equipment to employees with a disability, to allow that employee to take up or continue to work.  These Regulations ensure that no benefit in kind arises where the equipment is provided to an employee with a disability. This is the case even if the employee also uses the equipment outside of work, and private use is significant.

As per SI 2002/1596, the following conditions must be met for the exemption to apply:

  1. The benefit is provided to a disabled employee.
  2. The main purpose of providing the benefit is to enable the employee to perform the duties of his employment.
  3. The benefit consists in the provision of a hearing aid or other equipment, services or facilities, excepting any excluded benefit within the meaning in section 155ZA(a) and Regulations made under that section.
  4. The benefit is provided under, or within the terms of the provisions of, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995(b), the Access to Work programme, or any other statutory provision or arrangements, whether or not the employer has any legal duty to provide the benefit.
  5. The benefit is made available to the employer’s employees generally on similar terms (which include terms identical to Conditions 1 to 4).

So, whether the provision of a hearing aid is a benefit in kind will depend on whether the employee’s hearing loss is classed as a disability, and whether there is a bone fide need for the employee to have a hearing aid to enable them to do their job. If the duties of the employment do not require the employee to have good hearing, the exemption will not apply. The hearing loss has to affect the employee’s ability to do the job.

As per s6 Equality Act 2010:

  • disability is a protected characteristic
  • a person has a disability if it has a substantial and long-lasting impact on their everyday life.

As per s1 Disability Discrimination Act 1995:

a person has a disability if he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Schedule 1 DDA 1995 defines what is meant by long-term effects and normal day-to-day-activities –

The effect of an impairment is a long-term effect if:

(a) it has lasted at least 12 months;
(b) the period for which it lasts is likely to be at least 12 months; or
(c) it is likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected.

In summary, the exemption would apply if the employee’s hearing loss is-

  • classed as a disability, and
  • it has an effect on their ability to do their job

For example, an employee has long term hearing loss, lip reads in day-to-day life, but requires a hearing aid to enable her to carry out her duties as a telephonist. If the employer provides a hearing aid, this will be covered by the exemption even if the employee also uses the hearing aid in their private life.

HMRC’s  guidance can be found at EIM21846 and in their booklet 480 Chapter 5.

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Vanessa worked for HMRC for 30 years. She began her career with HMRC in the processing/service office. From 2001 Vanessa was a Compliance Caseworker within Small and Medium Enterprises. Vanessa visited a wide range of employers and contractors to check that they were meeting their tax and National Insurance (NIC) obligations with regard to payroll, expenses, benefits and the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

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