Injury to feelings

10 June 2019

If a tribunal upholds a discrimination claim, they can award compensation. Compensation can include an amount for 'injury to feelings'.

There are guidelines about how much can be awarded for injury to feelings which stem from a case called Vento. There are three compensation brackets - most serious, middle and lower – to reflect the severity of the impact on the employee's feelings.

In Otshudi v Base Childrenswear, the employee was dismissed out of the blue from a career that she had invested a lot of time and energy in, and which she felt was long term. She brought and won her claim for discrimination relating to her dismissal. Her dismissal was a serious but isolated discriminatory act. The employment tribunal awarded £16,000 for injury to feelings, an amount which fell into the middle compensation bracket. The employer appealed, saying that a one-off act of discrimination should fall within the lower bracket.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed. When calculating injury to feelings, the important question was 'what particular effect did the discrimination have on the employee?'. The tribunal had been entitled to consider that the situation was serious despite its isolated nature. The EAT could not interfere with the award unless it was 'manifestly excessive'. Based on the facts, it was not.

Employers should note that one-off acts of discrimination are not necessarily less hurtful (or less costly) than a series of discriminatory acts, especially when the act is something as serious as dismissal. Employers should ensure that managers tasked with dismissal decisions are appropriately trained on equality issues.

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