This is a cross-posted article, originally written on the Pure Employment Law Website and has now been posted here. Please note the date on which this article was posted originally and that any information within may have changed.
25 March 2019
If you have ever dealt with a discrimination claim, then you will almost certainly have come across the Vento guidelines. If you haven’t heard of them yet, then they are definitely something it is important to be aware of. We thought it would be helpful to explain what they are and how they work, and also to confirm the current rates (which have recently been increased).
What does injury to feelings mean?
In most employment claims, such as unfair dismissal and breach of contract, most of the compensation is based on financial losses. With discrimination cases things work slightly differently. Although employees can be awarded compensation for financial losses in discrimination claims, they can also claim an award for ‘injury to feelings’ under the Equality Act 2010. Injury to feelings awards are made at some level in virtually every successful discrimination claim.
Compensation for injury to feelings is intended to reflect the injury to feelings that the employee has suffered, rather than being a punishment to the employer. It is not the same as a personal injury claim, as no medical injury is required (personal injury awards can be made in discrimination cases, but that is a subject for another article!).
There are a number of factors that should be considered in each case. These include things like:
- The vulnerability of the employee (including whether they suffer from a medical condition)
- Whether the employee has suffered things like stress, anxiety and/or damage to their personal relationships
- The degree of hurt, distress or upset caused
- The position of the person who was found to be discriminating (e.g. whether they were more senior than the victim)
- The way in which the employer dealt with any complaint that was made by the employee
- The seriousness of the treatment
- It is worth noting that for this purpose, the size of the employer’s business is not relevant, because the award is only designed to reflect the effect on the victim.
What are the Vento guidelines?
The Vento guidelines are named after a landmark case from 2003 (Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police) where the Court of Appeal set out clear guidelines for courts and Tribunals to apply when they are assessing injury to feelings awards.
The Vento case decided that there are 3 ‘bands’ for compensation for injury to feelings:
- The lowest band – this will be for the least serious cases, such as where the discriminatory act is a one-off
- The middle band – serious cases, but ones where an award in the highest band would not be appropriate
- The highest band – these are the most serious cases, such as where there has been a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment which has a profound effect on the victim
Strictly speaking the Vento guidelines don’t create a limit, so there is potential for injury to feelings awards to exceed the highest band, but that would be exceptionally rare.
What are the current rates?
For cases brought on or after 6 April 2019 the rates have been increased as follows:
Lowest band – £900 to £8,800
Middle band – £8,800 to £26,300
Highest band – £26,300 to £44,000