Paying for Private Counselling was Reasonable Adjustment
An employer’s failure to pay for private counselling for a disabled employee amounted to a breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments.
In Croft Vets Ltd v Butcher, B was off sick with work-related stress and depression. Her employer referred her to a private consultant psychiatrist who recommended that her employer fund psychiatric and counselling sessions, although there was no guarantee that her health would improve to such an extent that she would be able to return to work. Her employer had not acted on this recommendation by the time she resigned three months later. B claimed disability discrimination, alleging that by not paying for her to have psychiatric and counselling sessions her employer had breached its duty to make reasonable adjustments.
The employment tribunal upheld her claim and the employer appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The EAT noted that adjustments must be job-related but concluded that they were. The medical evidence suggested that her stress was work-related and the suggested adjustments involved paying for a specific form of support to help her return to work and cope with her work-related difficulties. There were also reasonable prospects that if the suggested adjustments were made they would have been successful.
At first glance it might seem surprising that an employer could be required to fund an employee’s private medical treatment as part of the duty to make reasonable adjustments. However, the EAT was keen to stress that the issue in this case was not the payment of private medical treatment in general, but, rather, payment for a specific form of support to enable the Claimant to return to work and cope with the difficulties she had been experiencing at work. It is important to remember that whether an adjustment is reasonable in any given case will depend on a number of factors including the extent to which the adjustment will assist in enabling the employee to return to work and the financial cost of making the adjustment, the financial and other resources available to the employer and the availability of external financial or other assistance.
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