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Discrimination claims prove costly for employers

Posted
June 25, 2019
Employment Law

When considering the value of an Employment Tribunal claim, much normally turns on the extent to which the claimant has suffered a demonstrable financial loss. However, the situation can be quite different where the employer is accused of an act of discrimination or harassment. In these cases, the employee can also claim compensation for any injury to their feelings. But how do we go about putting a cash value on such a thing?

Low, middle or top…

Over the years, the Employment Tribunal has devised different bands or levels of compensation which a claimant can claim. ‘Lower band’ cases currently tend to result in awards from £900 -£8,800; ‘middle band’ cases tend to result in awards from £8,800 - £26,300; ‘top band’ cases tend to result in awards in the region of £26,300 - £44,000. As you can see, the bands are quite wide. So quite where any particular case falls is open to debate.

What about one-off acts?

The recent case of Base Childrenswear Ltd v Otshudi considered whether one-off acts of discrimination necessarily fall into the ‘lower band’. After the Employment Tribunal awarded the claimant £16,000 as injury to feelings (somewhere in the middle of the ‘middle band’!), the employer appealed. The company argued that the ET was wrong to award such a large sum, when only one of the claimant’s allegations of harassment had succeeded at trial.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal readily concluded that there was no reason why a one-off act could not give rise to an award in excess of the ‘lower band’. Instead, the EAT confirmed that each case must be examined on its own facts, having regard to the effect of the unlawful conduct on the particular employee in question.

Tread carefully!

This case provides us with a convenient opportunity to remind you of the considerable financial risks posed by successful claims for discrimination and harassment. Even one-off incidents can cost businesses thousands of pounds.  

You can reduce the risks for your business by ensuring that your policies and procedures are up to date and by running regular training sessions for your staff. If you would like our help putting appropriate policies and training into place, please get in touch.

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