Unlawful discrimination claims costs employers more than £4m in compensation

Employers paid more than £4m in compensation for unlawful discrimination in 313 cases in 2006, research has revealed.

In one-quarter of the cases, the amount of compensation was ‘uplifted’ under the statutory disputes procedures – by as much as 50% in one-third of those cases – according to the survey by Personnel Today‘s sister title Equal Opportunities Review.

Currently, tribunals can award an ‘uplift’ in compensation of between 10% and 50% to reflect the employer’s level of failure to comply with the statutory procedures.

In one case, the tribunal regarded the failure by a large employer to implement any kind of disciplinary procedure before dismissing an employee while on sick leave as a “worst case scenario”, and increased compensation by 50% – an additional £35,000.

The statutory disputes procedures were introduced in 2004 and have been dogged by controversy. The aim was to set in stone guidelines for disciplining employees and complaining about employers, and reduce the number of cases going to tribunal.

The government has since announced it is to repeal the procedures and look at new ways of resolving workplace disputes.

Sue Johnstone, editor of Equal Opportunities Review, said: “The uplift in compensation has emphasised the extent to which many employers fail to follow any kind of fair procedure when dealing with their employees.

“What the cases in our survey demonstrate is that some employers are blatantly disregarding the need for fair treatment, and under the current legislation they are paying the price.”

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