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Is it time to review the compensation limits for discrimination claims?

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Redundancy guide for employees

The presidents of the employment tribunals believe that the time has come to review the compensation limits for discrimination claims, and have issued a joint consultation statement, with a view to increasing the bands to be more in line with the rate of inflation as per the retail prices index.

If an individual was to be successful in a claim for discrimination, an employment tribunal can award compensation for injury to feelings, as well as for financial losses. This is a compensation for the upset, hurt and distress the discrimination has caused.

The guidelines that the tribunal use to decide how much they should award for injury to feelings are called the Vento guidelines (following the case of Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police (No. 2) (2003) ICR 318, CA).

The Vento guidelines are split into three bands depending on how serious the tribunal considers the injury to feelings to be.

The bands were last formally updated in 2009, and currently are:

The top band - The tribunal can award between £18,000 and £30,000 in the most serious of discrimination. For example, where an individual has suffered a long campaign of discrimination or harassment.

The middle band - The tribunal can award between £6,000 and £18,000 in cases which are serious but don't fall into the top band. They might include a serious one-off act of harassment or a lengthy but less serious act of discrimination. This band also covers cases where the discrimination was relatively minor but led to an individual losing their job.

The lower band - The tribunal can award between £500 and £6,000 in less serious cases of discrimination, such as a one-off act of relatively minor harassment or discrimination.

The proposed increase to the bands are as follows:

The top band - £25,000 to £42,000

The middle band - £8,000 to £25,000

The lower band - £1,000 to £8,000

The presidents have therefore issued a consultation using the following questions:

  • Do you consider that the RPI is the appropriate index in connection with up rating of awards? If not, please explain why you disagree.
  • Do you agree with the proposed approach of uprating of the Vento bands? If not, please explain why you disagree.

Responses should be received by Friday 25 August 2017, and can be submitted via email to Presidents_Office_Employment_E&W@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk (for those in England & Wales) or glasgow.president@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk (for those in Scotland).

Should the consultation response be that there is to be a further increase, this will an interesting negotiation point for both claimants and respondents. 

By Victoria Fagan, graduate paralegal in the employment law department