The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has given new guidance to Employment Tribunals on the level of awards for injury to feelings in discrimination cases. The new limits are:-
- £500 to £6,000 for less serious cases
- £6,000 to £18,000 for moderately serious cases
- £18,000 to £30,000 for the most serious cases
Although the details of the EAT's judgment have not yet been published, the decision will have an immediate effect on all discrimination cases currently before an Employment Tribunal which will now have to apply the new guidelines when making an award for injury to feelings.
This case demonstrates how costly discrimination claims can be for employers and the importance of ensuring that any incidents or complaints of discrimination are promptly and thoroughly dealt with to try and avoid them escalating into an Employment Tribunal claim.
The case of Da'Bell v NSPCC re-examined the compensation levels set by the Court of Appeal in the case of Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police in 2003 and increased them to take account of inflation since the Vento case was heard.
Prior to the Vento decision, there was little guidance on injury to feelings awards with the result that there was no consistency in such awards, leading to uncertainty for both employers and employees.
This position changed in 2003 when the Court of Appeal in the Vento case laid down guidance and set limits on injury to feelings awards. These were as follows:-
- A lower band of between £500 and £5,000 for less serious discrimination cases.
- A middle band of between £5,000 and £15,000 for more serious cases.
- A top band of between £15,000 and £25,000 for the most serious cases such as where there has been a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment.
The Da'Bell case does not change the nature of the Vento 'bands' of compensation but merely updates the limits on each band to take account of inflation since 2003.
Prior to this decision some Employment Tribunals had already taken matters into their own hands and started to make awards for injury to feelings over the Vento limits because of inflation since 2003 – for example in May 2009 an Employment Tribunal in Leeds awarded £29,500 for injury to feelings in an age discrimination case (Sturdy v Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust).
The Da'Bell case now confirms the new limits giving certainty and consistency to both employers and employees involved in discrimination claims before an Employment Tribunal.