Injury to Feelings in the Workplace
Discrimination in the workplace can affect teams, staff morale and above all else could be costly for employers and business owners. For staff having to face a daily barrage of bullying, criticism and name calling can be horrendous. However, did you know that employees could claim ‘injury to feelings’ against their employers under the Equality Act 2010.
At Pearson Solicitors our employee lawyers advise both employers and employees so can always offer advice from both sides of the disagreement, our team have a wide variety of experience and can advise accordingly to the situation.
“Discrimination is an awful thing, especially more so when you know that you will have to face it daily from co-workers and managers, in an environment where you are expected to perform at your best,” said Partner and Employment Law Solicitor, Susan Mayall.
“It is often the case that this can leave a lasting emotional scar on the victim going forward so it should be no surprise that the injury to feelings awards granted by Employment Tribunals can be substantial, under certain circumstances.” he added.
As well as compensation for financial losses in discrimination claims employees can claim compensation for ‘injury to feelings’ under the Equality Act 2010 and there are guidelines.
So how does the Employment Tribunal calculate discrimination awards and how costly can it be for your employers?
Injury to feelings compensation Vento bands
The Employment Tribunal will use the Injury to feelings awards set out in three Vento bands, established in the case of Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police (No 2)  IRLR 102.
Awards from each Vento band are as follows and are updated every April:
- Lower band £900 - £9,900
- Middle band £9,900 – £29,600
- Upper band £29,600 - £49,300 (although an excess of £49,300 can be awarded in exceptional cases)
The Tribunal will establish the Vento band employees are entitled to based on the severity of the injury suffered resulting from the employer's discrimination. Whilst this can be flexible, generally the lower band is for one off acts of discrimination, whereas the middle band is for ongoing discrimination. The upper band is generally only awarded in extreme cases of discrimination in the workplace.
An example of each is set out below, using case law examples.
Injury to feelings examples
(Warning: due to the nature of these cases, offensive language may be involved)
Lower Band - Chepinski v David Phillips Furniture Ltd ET/3201651/17
In this lower band case, Mr Chepinski was a white Polish man, employed by David Phillips Furniture Ltd. He was subject to a one-off act of racial discrimination on 13 September 2017, when he was referred to as a 'slave' by his manager, in front of others.
Mr Chepinski was awarded £3,000 at the Employment Tribunal. The injury he suffered was severe in that he had to take time off work between 13 October 2017 to 5 November 2017 but following this, he continued to work as he had prior to the discriminatory act.
Middle Band - Ochocinski v Chris Reynolds Pallets (North West) Ltd and others ET248010/15 and ET/2400333/16
Mr Ochocinski was a Polish man working amongst a team of five white British employees. He worked for Chris Reynolds Pallets for three and a half months before he was summarily dismissed since the team did not like him. The team would consistently single out Mr Ochocinski for his race, calling him names and acting highly aggressive towards him.
Mr Ochocinski was awarded £15,000 for injury to feelings. He suffered from anxiety and depression and continues to have a fear of British people due to the incidents he was subjected to in his workspace and the racial treatment he experienced.
Upper Band - Henderson v Asda Stores Ltd ET/2410550/2019
In this upper band case, the claimant sought injury to feelings awards due to racial discrimination. Mrs Henderson, who was Ukrainian, had worked as a sales manager at Asda for over 15 years. She resigned in May 2019, and in the 14 months prior to her resignation she experienced severe harassment from two different managers at Asda, being continually singled out and ridiculed because of her race. One of the managers often invaded Mrs Henderson's body space and would shout at Mrs Henderson when no-one else was around. She was excluded from social events and team huddles.
As a result of this ongoing treatment, Mrs Henderson was forced to quit her job of 15 years and started taking medication for depression and anxiety. The tribunal found that there were no other factors outside of work causing this. Mrs Henderson was awarded £40,000 for injury to feelings.
These cases illustrate racial discrimination. However, the amount in the award was vastly different. The 'one-off' act of discrimination present in Mr Chepinski's case was awarded the lower band of Vento, whilst the 14 months of ongoing abuse that Mrs Henderson suffered meant that she was awarded the upper band. Meanwhile, Mr Ochocinski also received ongoing abuse, but for a shorter period than Mrs Henderson, and so the middle band was awarded.
Types of discrimination claims
The employment cases above demonstrate injury to feelings following racial discrimination, but employees can also make a claim regarding:
- discrimination of age
- gender reassignment
- marriage or civil partnership
- pregnancy or maternity
- sexual orientation
How to prove injury to feelings
If you have felt singled out, excluded or harassed at your workplace for any of the above reasons, you may also be entitled to compensation for an injury to feelings.
The burden is on you, as the employee, to establish the fact surrounding your injury to feelings at the Employment Tribunal, and you have 3 months from the act of discrimination to make a claim.
How can an employer prevent discrimination in the workplace
Employers and business owners can help prevent discrimination in the workplace by making sure they have, and staff members are aware of, an up-to-date equality policy, arrange regular training sessions and make staff aware of the complaints procedure if discrimination happens.Subscribe to our newsletter
Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.
This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.