Are you thinking about opening a dispensary, but you’re unclear about the rules? Do you have to be an eye health professional? Do you have to employ an eye health professional? If you employ opticians, are you aware of the legislation that governs health professionals, and your responsibilities under it as an employer? The ACAO wants to ensure that your optical dispensary dreams get off the ground safely and legally. We’ve put together this FAQ to assist those who employ opticians, those who own and/or operate an eyewear store or dispensary, and those who may be considering doing so:

Who is authorized to dispense prescription eyewear in Alberta?

Dispensing prescription eyewear is a restricted activity; only opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists (medical doctors who specialise in eye health) are legally authorized to dispense corrective lenses in Alberta.

Do I have to be an optician/optometrist/doctor in order own or operate an eyewear store or dispensary?

No, anyone can own or operate a store or dispensary that sells eyewear. Non-prescription eyewear such as sunglasses, or minor correction reading glasses, can be sold at any number of locations. At an optical dispensary, as long as there is a regulated eye health professional dispensing the eyewear, the owner/operator does not have to be regulated.

Can I operate my store without involving an optician/optometrist/ophthalmologist?

Yes, however it is important to be aware that in order to dispense corrective lenses, the health legislation requires that an optician, optometrist or medical doctor (ophthalmologist) be involved. You may sell eyeglass frames or non-prescription eyewear (for example, non-prescription sunglasses) without the involvement of an authorized regulated health professional.

How do I know whether my employee, business partner, or associate is authorized to practice as an optician in Alberta?

All regulated health professions are required to maintain a public register that provides information regarding all registered members of their college. The ACAO’s public register indicates whether a member is entitled to practice in Alberta, may indicate where they work, and will show whether there are any terms, conditions, or limitations on the member’s certificate of registration. The ACAO’s Public Register can be found online here.

What legal obligations do I have as someone who employs opticians or who owns or operates an eyewear store or dispensary?

Anyone who employs opticians or operates an eyewear-related business should get in touch with a qualified legal professional for advice regarding their legal duties and obligations. We will list some key obligations here, but this list is not meant to be exhaustive, and you should not rely solely on what you find below to inform you of your duties:

  • Employers must inform the ACAO if an optician has been fired or quits due to actions that may constitute unprofessional conduct: Section 57(1) of the Health Professions Act (HPA) states that if, because of conduct that in the opinion of the employer is unprofessional conduct, the employment of a regulated member is terminated, suspended, or the regulated member resigns, the employer must give notice of that conduct to the complaints director of the ACAO.
  • If the unprofessional conduct would be considered sexual abuse or sexual misconduct, an employer must inform the college as soon as possible: Section 57 (1.1) of the HPA states that an employer who has reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct of a regulated member constitutes unprofessional conduct based on behaviour that, in the employer’s opinion, is sexual abuse or sexual misconduct must, as soon as possible, give notice of that conduct to the complaints director.
  • Section 96 of the HPA states that an employer must not knowingly require their regulated employee to contravene an order given by a hearing tribunal or council; this means that if your employee has restrictions placed on them, or has their license stripped, you are not allowed to ask them to perform tasks that they are no longer licensed to perform.
  • Section 102 of the HPA requires regulated members to not engage in advertising that is untruthful, inaccurate or otherwise capable of misleading or misinforming the public. Standard 5.6 of the opticians’ Standards of Practice further clarifies that all marketing and promotional material must be clear, accurate, truthful, complete, and not misleading. This means that marketing and promotion by an optician or on behalf of an optician needs to:
    • act in the best interest of the patient,
    • claim only those skills authorized by the College,
    • be in good taste ,
    • accurately represent the value of the product or service being offered ,
    • maintain the integrity of the profession, and
    • not claim superiority over another optician or health professional.