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Discrimination payouts reach new high

A record amount of compensation awarded in discrimination cases was paid out in 2011, according to a recent survey by the Equal Opportunities Review (EOR). Awards totalled £8.77 million last year, £3.5 million more than in 2010.

However, very large payouts in two NHS cases are primarily responsible for the record sum. One case involving an "extensive process" of sex and race discrimination against a female doctor resulted in an award of almost £4.5 million, including compensation for loss of earnings up to retirement. This is thought to be the largest award in a UK discrimination case.

In the other case a senior NHS worker, who had been subjected to racial discrimination and unfair dismissal, was awarded almost £1 million.

Taken at face value, the average 2011 payout is £38,848 per case. But if the two exceptionally large payouts are excluded, the average payout drops to £15,130, a small increase on the 2010 average of £13,624.

Analysts point out that it's relatively rare for awards to go into tens of thousands of pounds, and even more unlikely for all but the most serious cases to exceed £50,000.

Even so, it's important for employers to understand discrimination legislation and avoid potentially expensive tribunals. Acas offers a range of courses on Equality, diversity and the Equality Act 2010 , including detailed guidance on discrimination, bullying and harassment at work.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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