Publish date

30 April 2024

Injury to feelings awards and ‘Vento’ bands changes from 6 April 2024

This article explores the recent update to the Presidential Guidance on Employment Tribunal awards for injury to feelings, known as the ‘Vento’ guidelines.

A claim for discrimination may include, or be entirely made up of, a claim for ‘injury to feelings’. An injury to feelings award is a compensatory and discretionary award made by an employment tribunal for injury to feelings. The award may be given even in situations where an employee has not suffered any financial loss.

There is no legislation governing how a tribunal should quantify the financial value of an employee’s injured feelings. It has been left to the tribunals and courts to provide guidance. Following a 2002 Court of Appeal decision, an Employment Tribunal will focus on the impact of the discriminatory act(s) on a claimant regarding the ‘Vento’ bands.

In determining which Vento band an injury to feelings award may fall into, the key consideration is always the effect that the discriminatory act(s) has had on an individual. A tribunal will have regard to various factors including, but not limited to, the sensitivity of the claimant to the employer’s conduct, stress, medical conditions, and the impact of the discrimination on the claimant’s career.

The Vento bands are increased annually from 6 April in line with inflation and the Retail Prices Index.

For claims presented on or after 6 April 2024, the following Vento bands will apply:

  • Lower band: £1,200 to £11,700 (less serious cases)
  • Middle band: £11,700 to £35,200 (cases that do not merit an award in the upper band)
  • Upper band: £35,200 to £58,700 (the most serious cases).

Considerations for employers

The Vento bands do not apply to ordinary unfair dismissal claims, which is limited to financial losses.

For claimants who succeed with a discrimination claim, damages awarded for injury to feelings are separate from and can be in addition to compensation for financial losses.

Any employer facing a discrimination claim should consider their liability for injury to feelings award alongside claims for financial loss.

In circumstances where an employee has suffered no financial loss, it is still possible for them to claim compensation for injury to feelings. The Vento bands are not prescriptive; however, it is worth noting that a tribunal may award a sum lower than the lower band or in excess of £58,700, in exceptional cases.

The key consideration for a tribunal is not the employer’s conduct or motive or whether the discrimination was a ‘one off’ act or a prolonged course of conduct but rather, the effect of the discrimination on the claimant. An employee is only required to prove that an employer’s actions or conduct had an effect on their injury to feelings. This low threshold makes disputing a successful claimant’s claim for compensation difficult for respondent employers because the outcome is highly dependent on the claimant’s ability to put forward a case and prove their injury to feelings, which is subjective to the events which have occurred.

Whilst it is difficult to predict a future claim made by an employee, employers should be pro-active and take steps to correctly deal with any grievance(s) brought by employees because the tribunal may consider this if presented with a claim for injured feelings.

If you have any questions about discrimination claims, or any other employment law issue, please do contact a member of our Employment team.

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