Employers must be particularly careful to guard against age discrimination claims as average awards last year were three times higher than any other, experts have warned.
The ‘Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunals Statistics 2010-11’ report published by the Ministry of Justice
and Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service
revealed that the average age discrimination award was £30,289, more than twice that of its nearest contender, disability discrimination, which came in at £14,137.
Michael Slade, managing director of health and safety advisors Bibby Consulting & Support
, said: “On closer examination of the age discrimination awards, the figures are staggering. While the average awards made for race, sexual orientation, sex or disability discrimination run at £11,551, the average award for discriminating based on age was almost three times that.”
As a result, employers needed to treat the situation as a “major watch point” and be careful to review their current policies and staff training procedures to ensure they do not unduly expose themselves, he added.
Although the total number of tribunal claims dropped by 8% last year, cases relating to the European Working Time Directive, age discrimination and part-time workers leapt by 20%, 32% and 33% respectively. A third of all claims were withdrawn before they even got to the tribunal stage, however.
Of the 244,000 cases that were concluded, the highest number (39%) related to unfair dismissal, breach of contract and redundancy. A further 16% were brought due to unauthorised deductions, while 11% addressed equal pay issues.
In news elsewhere, a law firm warned that the Tribunals (Maximum Compensation Awards) Bill 2010-2011, which had its second reading in the House of Commons
last week, could clash with existing European law.
The aim of the Bill is to impose a cap of £50,000 on all compensatory awards, including unfair or wrongful dismissal. The current maximum, with a few exceptions, is £68,400, although employees can also be given a basic award of up to £12,000.
Compensation for discrimination claims is currently uncapped, however, and it is in this context that a problem may come about.
Martin Warren, a part and head of Eversheds
‘ HR Group, said that the European Equal Treatment Directive required UK law to provide adequate remedies for discrimination. The move followed a 1993 ruling by the European Court of Justice
that discrimination compensation should not be subject to the same cap as unfair dismissal compensation.
“As a result, it is difficult to see how supporters behind this Bill can realistically deliver a £50,000 limit, while also complying with European law. A formula, for example, two years’ pay rather than a cap for all claims irrespective of earnings, might be a safer route legally,” Warren said.