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Reductions to basic and compensatory awards

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Was it unacceptable to reduce a compensatory award by 35% but not to also reduce the basic award?

In University of Sunderland v Drossou the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that Yes, it was unacceptable.

In this case the Claimant, a Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader, was dismissed following a restructure. The reason for dismissal was an irretrievable breakdown in working relationships for which the Respondent University said she was primarily to blame. As a result, she brought a claim of unfair dismissal (and other claims of race and disability discrimination).

The unfair dismissal claim was upheld by the employment tribunal, however, it was decided that the Claimant was not entirely blameless – she was somewhere between partly and equally to blame. Consequently, the compensatory award was reduced by 35%, but no reduction was made to the basic award. The University appealed and the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the appeal, and reduced the basic award by 35%.

In reaching its decision the EAT relied on the Court of Appeal case of RSPCA v Cruden, where it held that although the tests for reducing the basic and compensatory award were different, a differentiation between them would only be justified in exceptional circumstances. The EAT found that as the Tribunal had reduced the compensatory by 35% it was perverse not to also reduce the basic award by the same amount.

Written by

Edward Aston
4th August 2017