Discrimination payouts in employment tribunals continue to fall…

The compensation paid by employers who discriminated against employees fell by almost £1m last year, as the number of successful employment tribunal claims decreased for the second year in a row.

But the median tribunal award remained almost unchanged, dropping from £7,567 in 2005 to £7,500 in 2006, according to an analysis of employment tribunal judgments by Personnel Today’s sister publication, Equal Opportunities Review.

Researchers analysed 313 awards under sex, race and disability discrimination laws and the 2003 regulations covering discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and religious belief.

In all, employers were ordered to pay a total of £4,150,225, rising with interest to £4,295,160. Payouts, including interest, totalled £5.2m in 2005, and £6.2m in 2004.

The research shows that although there was little change in the typical overall payout in each case, compensation awards in some jurisdictions had moved considerably over the year.

Race discrimination compensation awards fell from a median (or midpoint) figure of £8,270 to £5,302 between 2005 and 2006, while disability discrimination awards rose from £8,373 to £9,840.

But the new jurisdictions introduced by the 2003 regulations were the most volatile – in part reflecting the relatively small number of claims dealt with so far.

The median compensation award for religious discrimination fell from £6,010 in 2005 to £1,550 in 2006. Awards for sexual orientation discrimination rose from a median £3,500 to £11,561, taking this from the lowest to the highest level of payout for a single jurisdiction.

Compensation awards were highest in combined jurisdictions, where awards were made for a single case in which there had been discrimination in more than one jurisdiction.

Total awards include a sum for financial loss, injury to feelings, aggravated damages, personal injury and any uplift made to reflect an employer’s failure to follow the statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures.

… and employment tribunals say most injury to feelings is only relatively minor

More than half the awards made by employment tribunals in respect of injury to feelings in discrimination cases fell into the least serious category recognised by the law, the research shows.

In Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police v Vento (No.2), the Court of Appeal laid down guidelines for injury to feelings awards that defined three bands reflecting the seriousness of the case. These were:

  • A top band – normally between £15,000 and £25,000 for cases involving lengthy campaigns of discriminatory harassment
  • A middle band – running from £5,000 to £15,000, for serious cases and
  • A lower band – from £500 to £5,000, for less serious cases, such as where the act of discrimination was an isolated or one-off incident.

Analysis of the 313 discrimination awards made in 2006 found that 167 (53%) included payments in the lowest band, with a further 84 (27%) in the middle band. There were only nine awards (3%) in the top band. But a further 53 (17%) gave no breakdown.

The median figure for compensation in respect of injury to feelings was £4,875 for all cases, ranging from £1,550 in cases about religious discrimination to £9,900 for cases in which there were multiple jurisdictions.

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