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Reasonable Adjustments: Don’t Get Caught Out

The recent dEW ar5ticleecision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Croft Vets & Others v Butcher confirms that an employer can be required to fund private medical treatment of an employee as part of a reasonable adjustment to assist them to return to work.

Under section 20 of the Equality Act 2010, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to prevent employees from suffering substantial disadvantage when their disability impacts on their ability to work.

In Croft Vets & Others v Butcher, Mrs Butcher worked as the Finance Manager and Receptionist for a chain of veterinary practices. Due to business expansion and increased job role responsibilities, Mrs Butcher suffered from work related stress. Her employer, Crofts Vets, referred her to a clinical psychiatrist who recommended treatment including six psychiatric sessions at a cost not exceeding £750. The failure of her employer to act on these recommendations led to Mrs Butcher resigning and claiming constructive unfair dismissal.

At first instance, the Employment Tribunal found in Mrs Butcher’s favour, deciding that the failure to provide funding for six psychiatric sessions amounted to failure to make reasonable adjustments. Her employers then appealed, arguing that failure to fund private healthcare did not amount to failure to make reasonable adjustments when such psychiatric therapy was available through the NHS and the Claimant had not taken any steps to obtain the therapy through the NHS.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, however, disagreed and upheld the Tribunal’s decision that Mrs Butcher’s employers had not made reasonable adjustments by failing to pay for the private psychiatric sessions. They further confirmed that in this case, the issue 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.

This decision highlights the potential risk to employers when referring an employee to a company doctor and ignoring any recommendations to assist the employee returning to work. Whilst the Tribunal has not held that employers are required to pay for a disabled employee’s private medical treatment in general, care should be taken when a physician recommends specific private healthcare to assist the employee.

If you are an employer or employee and wish to discuss reasonable adjustments, please contact Eleanor Wilkinson, Associate in the Employment Team at Square One Law LLP on 0843 224 7940.

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