Hethertons highlights changes to awards for unlawful discrimination claims

The employment team at Hethertons Solicitors in York is calling on employers to recognise the potential increased cost of having unlawful discrimination claims brought against them.

Any claims started in the employment tribunal after the 11 September 2017 could be subject to much larger awards under what is known as the Vento Bands system, according to David Scott, a Senior Associate at the firm.

The Bands are used to assess compensation for injury to feelings for upset, distressed or anxiety as a result of unlawful discrimination in the workplace.  This is in addition to any compensation for financial loss.

Unlike an unfair dismissal claim, a discrimination claim can be brought without the need to be employed for two years – and can even be brought for discrimination in the recruitment process. In addition there is no cap on the amount an Employment Tribunal can award in compensation when a discrimination claim is successful.

Up until recently, the Vento Bands started with awards of £600 for the least serious cases in the lower band and up to £30,000 for the top band, where an employee has experienced a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment.

However, from mid-September these rates will increase significantly with awards of £800 to £8,400 for the lower band, £8,400 to £25,200 for the middle band and £25,200 up to £42,000 for the upper band, while exceptional cases could be open to awards in excess of £42,000.

These bands will be reviewed next year and then annually thereafter to see if further increases are needed to the bands.

Speaking about the rise, David said: “Companies across the UK will probably be unaware of this change, but it could have a significant impact on a number of firms. Unlike a claim for unfair dismissal, discrimination claims can be brought at any time by an employee, with uncapped compensation if successful. These bands represent just one element of the compensation that can be awarded.

“In additional to this, the Courts have recently relaxed the burden of proof that Claimants have to establish to show that they have been unlawfully discriminated against.”

David added that “the threat was even greater considering the recent ruling on tribunal fees in the Supreme Court, which found the fees unlawful allowing Claimants to bring cases to tribunal without incurring any initial charges. Employers need to ensure that they have the correct policies and procedures in place to help prevent the increased compensation limits having a significant impact on their business.”