Employer should have paid for depressed employee’s psychiatric counselling
The EAT has held that the duty to make reasonable adjustments can extend to the obligation to fund private medical treatment for employees in some instances.
In the case of Croft Vets Ltd & Ors v Butcher, the employer referred the Claimant, who was suffering from work related depression and stress, to a private consultant psychiatrist whom they had used in the past for staff related absences. The consultant psychiatrist prepared a report which recommended that the Claimant see another independent clinical psychologist and attend six further psychiatric sessions in order to aid her return to work (total cost around £750).
The Claimant’s employers never acted upon these recommendations and she subsequently resigned from work claiming constructive unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and a failure to make reasonable adjustments. An Employment Tribunal agreed with the Claimant at first instance.
Of particular interest is that the EAT dismissed the employer’s ground of appeal related to the failure to make reasonable adjustments. The EAT instead upheld the Tribunal’s findings that the adjustments in question were reasonable given that “they were not for 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.”
This decision may cause alarm bells to ring for employers, who may be understandably concerned about the perceived expansion of the duty to make reasonable adjustments into the realm of paying for private medical treatment of employees. However, the EAT drew a clear distinction between private medical treatment in general and targeted support specifically aimed at helping the Claimant to return to employment and cope with work associated difficulties. One of the examples of a reasonable adjustment given in the legislation is of “giving or arranging training or mentoring” and the EAT thought that the sessions recommended by the psychiatrist fell within the mentoring example. It was therefore viewed more as a form of support rather than medical treatment.
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