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28th October 2013

EAT provides guidance on reasonable adjustments

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The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments to assist disabled job applicants and employees in certain circumstances.

The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments to assist disabled job applicants and employees in certain circumstances. Whether a particular adjustment would have been reasonable in the circumstances is a matter for the Tribunal consider. When considering if an adjustment is reasonable, the Tribunal will take into account matters such as the extent to which the adjustment would have assisted the disabled person, the cost of the adjustment in the light of the employer's financial resources, and the disruption that the adjustment would have had on the employer's activities In the case of Croft Vets Limited v Butcher UKEAT/0430/12/0210 the EAT looked at the reasonableness of an adjustment recommended by a medical adviser and whether the employer had failed to comply with its obligations under the Equality Act 2010 by failing to make this adjustment. Mrs Butcher was employed by the Company as a reception and finance manager. She suffered from work related stress and severe depression. Mrs Butcher was signed off as sick from work from 4 May 2010 with depression and did not return to work with the Company. Whilst Mrs Butcher was signed off sick, Mrs Joyce, a director of the Company wrote to Mrs Butcher and asked her to visit a private consultant, Dr Parry, so that the Company could obtain a medical report in relation to Mrs Butcher’s current state of health. Dr Parry confirmed that Mrs Butcher was suffering from work related stress and severe depression. He recommended that Mrs Butcher should see a clinical psychologist and suggested that the Company should give consideration to paying for Mrs Butcher’s sessions with the psychologist. The Company did not arrange for Mrs Butcher to have sessions with a psychologist as recommended by Dr Parry. On 23 November 2010, Mrs Butcher resigned from her employment with the Company. She stated that the reason for her resignation was that she was disappointed with the way that the Company had responded to Dr Parry’s report and their treatment of her in general. Mrs Butcher made a claim for disability discrimination on the basis that the Company had failed to make reasonable adjustments. The Company argued that payment for the private sessions was not job related and stated therefore that the adjustment was not reasonable in the circumstances. The EAT rejected this argument. It held that the recommendation from Dr Parry had not been for the Company to provide private medical treatment in general, but simply to pay for a specific form of support to enable Mrs Butcher to return to work. It held therefore that the adjustment was reasonable. The EAT, therefore, held that the Company had discriminated against Mrs Butcher as a result of her disability. It held that the Company had failed to comply with its duty to make reasonable adjustments for Mrs Butcher by failing to pay for her to have private psychology sessions. For further information, please contact Gemma Hill on 01604 233233 or click here to email Gemma. For further information on our employment solicitors, please click here.