A variety of claims can be filed in the Employment Tribunal (“ET”), and among them, discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010 often stand out. The case facts can be interesting, and the compensation can be significant.
If a discrimination claim is substantiated, the ET can make awards covering financial losses and “injury to feelings,” among other remedies. When examining a Claimant’s schedule of loss – which outlines their assessment of the value of their claims – special attention is often given to the evaluation of the ‘injury to feelings’ award.
For the ET Judge, striking a balance is crucial, ensuring that an injury to feelings award neither becomes a windfall nor diminishes respect for the law. The leading case for guidance on how much should be awarded for injury to feelings is Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police (No 2)  IRLR 102. This case established three bands of potential awards, depending on the severity of the discriminatory acts.
The bands increase each year, and for claims issued on or after 6 April 2023, the Vento bands are as follows:
- A lower band of £1,100 to £11,200 (for less serious cases)
- A middle band of £11,200 to £33,700 (for cases that do not merit an award in the upper band)
- An upper band of £33,700 to £56,200 (for the most serious cases), with the most exceptional cases capable of exceeding £56,200.
This framework ensures a measured approach to compensation in discrimination, offering a guidance for practitioners navigating the complexities of employment law.
Below are three examples of discrimination claims with the corresponding awards that were made for injury to feelings:
Case: Moyhing v Barts and London NHS Trust  IRLR 860
- The male nurse claimant suffered direct sex discrimination when, according to the respondent’s policy, he couldn’t conduct an ECG on a female patient without a chaperone.
- A female student nurse faced no such restrictions in a similar situation.
Despite the discrimination, not personally directed at the claimant, the EAT awarded £750.
- Harbouring a legitimate and principles sense of grievance is not to be confused with suffering an injury to feelings.
Injury to feelings award: £750
Case: Underwood v William Byrd Pool Trust (Watford) (Case No 3303739/2012)  EqLR 1211
- The Duty Manager claimant worked at the respondent’s swimming pool.
- He was victimised in his dismissal for having done three protected acts:
- Alleging a group booking had not been taken because the group were Asian.
- Alleging that a booking from an Islamic group would not be taken on grounds of race; and
- Alleging that another manager had not allowed a booking because they were racist.
- He experienced disappointment, personal upset and became a bit depressed (not clinically diagnosed as serious and he was able to lead an active life).
- Owing to the above and the fact the act of victimisation was dismissal which cut off his financial income, the appropriate award was towards the low end of the middle Vento band.
Injury to feelings award: £8,000 plus a recommendation that the respondent implement policies and training
Case: Ministry of Defence v Fletcher (Leeds) (Case Nos 1804324/05, 1802882/06, 1804001/06) (15 January 2008, unreported), (UKEAT/0044/09; 9 October 2009,  IRLR 25)
- The Claimant soldier in the British Army suffered sex discrimination and sexual harassment as well as extensive victimisation on the grounds of her sexual orientation.
- She was told by her superior that her partner was ugly and that she should have a sexual relationship with him.
- He sent her regular obscene messages and boasted about the size of his penis.
- He used administrative sanctions against the claimant and instructed other soldiers to punish her in varying ways.
- The disciplinary process was hostile, high handed and arbitrary.
- The claimant couldn’t continue because of the stress which persistent disciplinary allegations on trivial grounds trumped up into summary dealings under the Army Act caused to her.
- Medical advice was then used as a basis for discharge on disadvantageous terms, despite there being no serious medical illness.
- The unpleasantness of the sexual harassment, the length of time, seriousness and variety of manifestations of victimisation meant that an award at the top end of the highest Vento band (at the time) was amply justified.
Injury to feelings award: £30,000 + £8,000 aggravated damages
Discrimination claims come with potential consequences, both financially and reputationally. Seeking specialist employment advice can assist in understanding the legal nuances and implementing proactive measures to prevent discrimination, whilst investing in a more inclusive and resilient workplace for your business.
James Roddy, Employment Tribunal & Employment Law Consultant at EML, comments:
“It’s a common occurrence for litigants in person (i.e. unrepresented claimants) to overestimate the value of their claims. Typically, claimants are required to prepare a schedule of loss, outlining the damages they seek if their claim succeeds. I always pay close attention to the claimant’s assessment of the injury to feelings element of their schedule as it can demonstrate their level of understanding and reveal how realistic their expectations are. This insight can be crucial for efficient case management. Employers would be wise to familiarise themselves with the Vento guidelines and seek specialist advice on them (from ourselves of course!) in the unfortunate event that they are faced with a claim. Doing so can facilitate negotiation at the right level where settlement is an option and help you effectively gear up for the fight where it’s not.”
Our consultants provide commercially minded employment law advice and bespoke HR services that can actively reduce your organisation’s exposure to litigation. We also offer a comprehensive employment tribunal representation service through which we can handle any claims you do receive. If you are an employer facing employment issues which could result in litigation, please feel free to contact us for a confidential, no-obligation discussion on 01942 727200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.