New legislation

Discrimination | Vento bands for injury to feelings awards increase from April 2021

Published: 6th April 2021
Area: Employment

The Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England & Wales and Scotland have issued updated guidance on the bands of awards for injury to feelings, also known as the Vento bands. From 6 April 2021 the award for injury to feelings will increase.

Here we outline the updated guidance and why employers need to be aware of the change.

What are Vento bands?

The Vento bands were established in the case Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police [2003], in which the Court of Appeal set clear guidelines for the amount of compensation to be given for injured feelings.

Injury to feelings awards are intended to provide a claimant with compensation unrelated to financial loss. The amount of award is designed to take into account the degree of hurt, humiliation or distress an employee may have suffered as a result of discriminatory conduct.

The three bands of potential awards are:

  1. Lower band - less serious cases, for example, where the act of discrimination is an isolated or one-off occurrence.
  2. Middle Band - cases that do not merit an award in the upper band.
  3. Upper Band - the most serious cases, for example, where there has been a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment on the ground of sex or race. The guidance makes it clear that only in "the most exceptional case" should an award for injury to feelings exceed the top of this band.
What are the changes?

From 6 April 2021 the Vento bands will be as follows:

  • Lower band: £900 to £9,100 (an increase of £100 to upper limit);
  • Middle band: £9,100 to £27,400 (an increase of £400 to upper limit); and
  • Upper band: £27,400 to £45,600 (an increase of £600 to upper limit).
What does this mean for employers?

The Vento bands provide useful guidance as to how to assess the potential cost of losing a discrimination claim. In other words, should an employer be unsuccessful in defending a discrimination claim, the Employment Tribunal will use these bands to determine the compensation an employee is entitled to for injury to feelings.

Subsequently, this compensation will be in addition to any award for loss of earnings. Bearing in mind that there is no cap on compensation being awarded in discrimination claims, this can sometimes to be a costly outcome and therefore emphasise the importance of thorough employment policies, procedures and training in order to alleviate the risks of claims arising.

For example, in 2019/20, age discrimination claims received the largest average award (£39,000) compared to other discrimination jurisdictions, such as race or sex. The highest maximum award in 2019/20 was for disability discrimination, at £266,000.

We’re here to help

In addition to the updated guidance on Vento bands, there are also five other changes to employment law that HR managers need to be aware of from this month.

If you need support with any employment-related issue, speak to a member of your local employment team.

Our employment team is ranked as a Leading Firm in the Legal 500 2021 edition.

Our updated guide to recovery and resilience covers everything you need to navigate your business out of lockdown, unlock your potential and make way for a brighter future. Further advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.

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