In St Andrew's Catholic Primary School v Blundell the employment tribunal decided that the claimant had been victimised after she claimed sex discrimination and awarded her £291,496 compensation, including £22,000 for injury to feelings. It also made a formal recommendation that the head teacher at the school should send a public letter to all parents, to apologise for the way the claimant had been treated.

The employer appealed to the EAT.

In its decision, the EAT reduced the compensation for injury to feelings to £14,000 as being 'fairly and squarely within the middle band' identified in the guidelines set out in the Vento case. It was said that there has to be a campaign of 'lengthy and vile treatment' for a claimant to be entitled to compensation in the top band.

The EAT has also said that it was appropriate to order a public letter of apology, although the wording of the letter should be depersonalised. The Employment Tribunal should not have asked the head teacher to send a letter that included statements that it knew she did not, in all conscience, agree with.

Points to note –

  • In the past, tribunals have rarely made use of their power to make formal recommendations. They may do so more in future, being given wider powers to do so under the new Equality Act. So it is useful to have this judgment as a marker as to the extent of those powers.
  • The claimant also recovered £5,000 aggravated damages for the way in which the tribunal hearing had been conducted by her employers. They had effectively run the hearing as a character assassination exercise. EAT took the view that this was totally at odds with evidence given earlierin the case about the claimant's qualities as a teacher.