Unlawful discrimination is treating someone differently simply because of a particular characteristic such as a person’s race, disability, gender or sexual orientation.
Claimants who are successful in their claims for unlawful discrimination (and some claims for whistleblowing) are, in addition to financial compensation, entitled to compensation in the form of an injury to feelings award.
Since the 2002 case of Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, compensation for injury to feelings has been placed into three distinct ‘bands’, which are based upon the severity and duration of the treatment complained about.
The Vento guidelines have now been updated to take account of inflation
• Lower band: £900 to £8,800 (less serious cases, such as where the act of discrimination is an isolated or one off occurrence).
• Middle band: £8,800 to £26,300 (serious cases that do not merit an award in the upper band).
• Upper band: £26,300 to £44,000 (the most serious cases, such as where there has been a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment, with exceptional cases capable of exceeding £44,000).
These figures will apply to cases presented to an Employment Tribunal on or after 6th April 2019 and follows other annual increases to statutory rates such as to the national minimum wage and statutory sick pay regimes.
The announcement of the updated Vento bands is a helpful reminder to employers and employees alike of the level of injury to feelings awards that can be made in discrimination cases.
A ‘Vento’ case study
When Emily* disclosed her pregnancy to her employer, she noticed a distinct change in her manager’s attitude towards her.
Emily, was the only female employee in a management position at the company. Since informing her employer about her pregnancy, she noticed a stark difference in the way she was treated at work; in particular, the emergence of offensive and sexist comments, in addition to an unwarranted over-emphasis on her performance.
Before announcing her pregnancy, Emily’s progress, performance and achievements had never before been brought into question; she had in fact been praised as a consistent over-achiever.
However, since her pregnancy, Emily noticed that her male colleagues no longer appeared to have time to assist her when required, belittled her verbally and in e-mails, and requested that she provide more frequent updates to management regarding her work than had previously ever been required.
When Emily was five months pregnant, she was informed that she would not be receiving her bonus as she had not reached her target. Since starting with the company, Emily received a guaranteed monthly bonus in which there had never been either formal or informal parameters set by the company as to how this needed to be achieved. It was only since disclosing her pregnancy that Emily’s bonus faced jeopardy.
Two months later, Emily raised a grievance about the treatment she received, which she felt, due to the timeframe, could only be as a result of her pregnancy; however, her employer did not respond to her concerns. Following this, Emily was then sadly signed off work by her GP with work-related stress as a result of the situation at work; now five months pregnant, she was extremely concerned that the stress she was under may adversely affect her baby.
While absent from work, Emily’s access to work e-mails was blocked and she received multiple calls from her clients, asking her what had happened as her managers informed them that she no longer worked for the company. Emily resigned as a result of this situation.
Emily contacted Morecrofts to bring a discrimination claim against her employer. We represented her and achieved a settlement of £30,000. Although this does not negate the discriminatory treatment she has received, we hope she will be able to gain some closure from the settlement of her case.
Emily worked in a male-dominated industry. However, discrimination is not reserved for one industry. It happens regardless of industry, position or salary, and when it does it can be devastating. It is important that people realise that there is something that they can do about it and seek professional advice at an early stage.