Hardy & Hansons v Lax
Employment Appeal Tribunal reduces excessive injury to feelings award where irrelevant factors were taken into account
In discrimination cases, injury-to-feelings awards generally fall into one of three brackets: £500-£5,000; £5,000-£15,000; and a top band of £15,000-£25,000.
This is in line with guidance issued by the Court of Appeal in 2003 in Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police. In Hardy & Hansons v Lax, the EAT reduced a tribunal award of 14,000 for injury to feelings to 10,000 and provided some useful guidance about how to calculate the correct amount.
Request to work part time
The employee, Mrs Lax, applied to change from full-time work to part-time work on her return from maternity leave and her employer, Hardys, rejected the request. During her maternity leave, Hardys reorganised Lax’s team and offered her a full-time role following the restructuring.
When Lax said she could not perform this role full-time she was made redundant. The tribunal found that Hardys should have considered whether the full-time role should be offered to Lax on a job-share basis, and it found in favour of her claims for sex discrimination and unfair dismissal. At the remedies hearing the tribunal awarded compensation for one year’s loss of earnings and an injury to feelings award of 14,000.
The EAT found that the sum of 14,000 was excessive given that there was no evidence of any damage to health, no medical report and no successful claim for aggravated damages. Interestingly, the tribunal had refused to award aggravated damages, but stated that Hardys’ discriminatory conduct was an “aggravating factor” in relation to the injury to feelings award. The EAT disagreed.
In assessing the award, the EAT took into account the fact that Lax had begun a course of study and would have the opportunity of acquiring an additional qualification. The EAT also considered the relevant case law summarised in the Equal Opportunities Review Guide to Compensation and Discrimination Cases and the Vento guidelines.
This case is a useful reminder of the proper methods for calculating injury to feelings cases, such as those set out in Vento.
The circumstances that the EAT took into account may be useful in negotiating settlements or assessing liability where the claimant seeks compensation for injury to feelings.
What you should do
- Ensure line managers are given adequate training and they understand the potential for high injury-to-feelings awards. In this case, the EAT found that the employee’s witnesses had over-egged the company’s inability to accommodate a job-share, which could have been avoided.
- Take medical evidence seriously and do not be afraid to ask for it. Injury to feelings is a type of personal injury award, so employees can take comfort in the fact that the EAT wanted to see concrete evidence of actual injury, rather than just taking the individual’s word for it.