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Blog  »  August 2023  »  Award for Upset and Hurt: Case Law Example - Blog
Aug 23

Posted by
Charlotte McArdle

Award for Upset and Hurt: Case Law Example

Individuals who bring successful discrimination claims are entitled to be compensated for the upset and hurt they have suffered by way of an injury to feelings award. These awards are separate from, and in addition to, compensatory awards for financial loss which are uncapped.
Awards for injury to feelings have been increased for all claims presented on or after 6 April 2023 and are now over double the original rates.
The new bands are as follows:

Lower band - suitable for one-off and isolated incidents which are considered to be less serious. £1,100 - £11,200
Middle band - suitable for cases that do not merit an award in the upper band. £11,200 - £33,700
Upper band - suitable only in the m sot serious cases which was where there has been a lengthy campaign of harassment. £33,700 - £56,200 with the most exceptional cases capable of exceeding £56,200.

It is worth remembering that a claimant does not need to prove that they have suffered any ill health or produce medical evidence in order to get an injury to feelings award – although if they do, they may get a higher figure.

The tribunal will consider the extent to which the victim of discrimination has had their feelings injured and will attribute a financial value to that injury. Awards in the upper band are rare and most awards are in the upper lower and middle bands.

Case Law Example:

Mrs. Messum, a qualified executive HR assistant at Bradford, faced discrimination and mistreatment after becoming pregnant. Despite her qualifications, her boss started assigning her physically, unrelated demanding tasks. She was signed off due to pregnancy-related issues and during sick leave, was asked to attend an urgent investigatory meeting. When she could not attend due to illness, her maternity leave was initiated. Later, she was asked to attend the meeting again, in her own home with an 8-week-old baby and if she did not attend there may be disciplinary action.

After she returned to work, she attended the investigatory meeting, during which she was accused of stealing food from the canteen. She said that her manager had given permission for her to take food home when she had worked late and did not have time to take a break. Despite her explanations, she received a verbal warning and her job duties were changed. Her HR duties were taken off her and she was instead asked to process sales orders and, later on, to do housekeeping duties - including laundry. She resigned, claiming unfair dismissal, pregnancy/maternity discrimination, and harassment.

The tribunal ruled:

  1. Unfair dismissal: Company actions breached trust, mishandling investigations and changing her role fundamentally.
  2. Pregnancy/maternity discrimination: Demoting her and changing her role was unfavourable treatment due to her condition.
  3. Harassment: Repeated unwanted contact during her pregnancy and maternity period was deemed harassment.

The tribunal awarded Mrs Messum £18,000 for injury to feelings, an additional ACAS uplift of 25% (because the employer had not followed the Acas Code of Practice) plus interest amounting to £28,000.

This case underscores persistent issues with pregnancy and maternity discrimination, with a significant percentage of mothers facing mistreatment or job loss. Legal protections exist, but many employers still fall short. It's vital for employers to understand their obligations and treat pregnant employees fairly.


Posted in Bullying and Harassment, Employment Tribunals


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