The claimant in Croft Vets Ltd v Butcher, who had been a long-serving employee, had left work with serious work-related stress and depression. The employer asked a private consultant psychiatrist, whom they had used before, to prepare a report and he recommended that the employer should consider funding further psychiatric sessions. The report pointed out that the treatment would not guarantee that the employee would be able to return to work and the consultant later rated the chances of a return to work as no greater than 50/50.
The EAT upheld the tribunal's decision that the employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments by not paying for the recommended treatment.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments was triggered by the employer requiring that the claimant should be able to return to work, performing the essential functions of her role, which put her at a substantial disadvantage. The employer's offer of limited duties at a substantially reduced salary did not discharge their obligation to avoid that disadvantage.
The reasonable adjustments have to be "job-related", not just measures to improve the employee's health generally, but the EAT confirmed that because the recommended treatment was a specific form of support that might enable her to return to work and to cope with the difficulty she had been experiencing, it was sufficiently job-related. The medical evidence was that the employee was suffering from predominantly work-related stress and there were "reasonable prospects" that if the advice was followed and the adjustments put in place they would be successful.
However, the EAT did make it clear that the decision did not mean that it would be a reasonable adjustment for employers to pay for private medical treatment in general; it was a reasonable adjustment to pay for the specific treatment recommended in this case.
This is the third case this year confirming the comprehensive scope of the duty to make reasonable adjustments – previous cases showed that it can result in adjustments being required to be made to sickness absence policies and to redundancy arrangements.