Employment Discrimination: an update to the Vento Guidelines
When dealing with a discrimination claim, you will need to know about the Vento guidelines which have been recently been increased.
Injury to feelings
In most employment claims, such as unfair dismissal and breach of contract, the majority of the compensation is based on financial losses. However, with discrimination cases employees can be awarded compensation for financial losses as well as an award for ‘injury to feelings’ under the Equality Act 2010.
Compensation for injury to feelings is based on a reflection of the injury to feelings that the employee has suffered. This is not intended to be a form of punishment for the employer. The size of the employer’s business is not relevant because the award is only designed to reflect the effect on the victim/employee. The following factors that should be considered in each case are things like:
does the employee suffer from a medical condition making them vulnerable?
has the employee suffered stress, anxiety and/or damage to their personal relationships?
what degree of hurt, distress or upset has been caused?
what was the position of the person who was found to be discriminating (e.g. whether they were more senior than the victim)?
how did the employer deal with any complaint that was made by the employee?
what was the seriousness of the treatment?
What are the Vento guidelines?
The Vento guidelines are named after the landmark case in 2003 of 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 –for the least serious cases, such as one-off acts of discrimination;
the middle band – for serious cases, but not appropriate for the highest band; and
the highest band – these are for the most serious cases, such as where there has been a campaign of discriminatory behaviour which has a profound effect on the victim/employee
However, the Vento guidelines don’t really create a limit, therefore there is potential for injury to feelings awards to exceed the highest band, but this would be for exceptionally rare cases.
What are the current rates?
The new bands, for claims issued on or after 6 April 2020, are:
lower band: £900 to £9k
middle band: £9k to £27k
upper band: £27k to £45k (with the possibility of the most serious cases exceeding £45k)
The Guidance can be downloaded here.
When the Vento case was first decided back in 2003, the highest band was £15,000 – £25,000. Since 2017 the Presidents of the Employment Tribunals have issued annual increases to the Vento awards, to allow for inflation.
If you are an employer looking for guidance on dealing with discrimination claims or how to value the injury to feelings award being claimed, contact our team today for a free initial consultation. We're here to help.