Reasonable adjustment for employer to pay for depressed employee’s private counselling
The EAT has held in Croft Vets Ltd v Butcher that an employer failed to make reasonable adjustments when it refused to pay for an employee to receive private counselling and psychiatric treatment for stress and depression.
Mrs Butcher began working for Croft in 1996 as a receptionist when it had four branches. When she left in 2010 she was the Finance and Reception Manager for nine branches and one animal hospital. Due largely to these additional responsibilities, she became ill with work-related stress and severe depression, although she also had a family history of depression and was a carer for her seriously ill mother. Croft eventually asked Mrs Butcher to see its consultant psychiatrist in order to assess whether any steps could be taken to facilitate her return to work. The consultant recommended that Croft pay for Mrs Butcher to receive psychiatric treatment and counselling. However, Croft did not follow this advice.
Mrs Butcher resigned claiming constructive dismissal and disability discrimination. She argued that paying for her treatment was a reasonable adjustment which Croft was obliged to make in order to help her overcome her disability and return to work. Croft argued that funding private treatment was outside the scope of reasonable adjustments which an employer could be required to make. The EAT upheld the Employment Tribunal’s decision that paying for the psychiatric treatment and counselling was a reasonable adjustment which Croft should have made.
The EAT stressed that this decision concerned a specific form of treatment to enable the employee to return to work, rather than private medical care in general. It is more likely that an employer will have to pay for any treatment where, as in this case, it is found to have contributed to the employee’s disability, and has failed to follow the recommendation of its own consultant.
06 Jan 2014