The Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England & Wales and Scotland have issued updated guidance on the bands for injury to feelings compensation, also known as the Vento bands or Vento scale. From 6 April 2021, the amount that can be awarded for injury to feelings increased.
Here we outline the updated guidance and why employers need to be aware of the change.
Injury to feelings compensation explained
Employees can receive injury to feelings compensation in cases where they have been discriminated against in the workplace. Injury to feelings awards are intended to compensate for the negative impact of discrimination on an employee's emotional wellbeing. The amount awarded is designed to take into account the degree of hurt, humiliation or distress an employee has suffered as a result of discriminatory conduct.
What are Vento bands?
The Vento bands provide an indication of how much money an employee should receive as part of an injury to feelings award. They were established in the case Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police , in which the Court of Appeal set clear guidelines for the amount of compensation to be given for injured feelings.
The three Vento bands outlining potential injury to feelings awards are:
- Lower Band - less serious cases, for example, where the act of discrimination is an isolated or one-off occurrence.
- Middle Band - cases that do not merit an award in the upper band.
- Upper Band - the most serious cases, for example, where there has been a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment on the grounds of age, 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.
These guidelines are interchangeably referred to as the Vento bands or the Vento scale.
What are the changes to the Vento bands?
From 6 April 2021, the new Vento bands for injury to feelings compensation are 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 do the new Vento bands 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 the Vento scale to determine the compensation an employee is entitled to receive for injury to feelings.
This injury to feelings compensation will be in addition to any award for loss of earnings, which can amount to a considerable sum in cases where highly paid employees are unable to work due to discrimination for extended periods of time. Moreover, there is no cap on the overall compensation awarded in discrimination cases, so successful claims can be extremely costly for businesses.
In 2019/20, age discrimination claims received the largest award on average (£39,000) compared to other discrimination jurisdictions such as race or sex. The maximum award in 2019/20 was for disability discrimination at £266,000.
With this in mind, it is vital that your organisation has thorough employment policies, procedures and training in place to reduce the risk of discrimination claims arising.
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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 April 2021.
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