Dunnachie v Kingston upon Hull City Council, CA, [2004] EWCA Civ 84

Compensation for injury to feelings: Dunnachie resigned from the council in 2001, alleging he had been bullied at work. He succeeded in his tribunal claim for constructive unfair dismissal. In addition to compensation for his economic losses (including loss of earnings), the tribunal awarded him £10,000 for injury to his feelings.

The EAT upheld the council’s appeal against the decision to award a sum for non-economic losses, holding that an employee could only be compensated for quantifiable economic losses.

The Court of Appeal allowed Dunnachie’s appeal by a majority, overruling the principle established in Norton Tool Co Ltd v Tewson that only economic losses can be awarded for unfair dismissals. The Court decided that the relevant legislation was drafted widely enough to include non-pecuniary loss, so damages for injury to feelings were available in principle for successful unfair dismissal claims.

However, the court made it clear that not every unfair dismissal claim will carry such an award, and employment tribunals were advised to require firm proof that an applicant has suffered real injury to his or her self-respect. This is only likely to become material in some cases of constructive dismissal. It is likely that this case will be further appealed to the House of Lords.

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