Wed 30 Sep 2020

Employment tribunal award statistics published - 2019/2020

The Ministry of Justice has published its annual employment tribunal award statistics for 2019/2020.

Last year the employment tribunal statistics reported on the first full year where no employment tribunal fees had been paid.  Not surprisingly the number of claims made had increased.  This year - which looks at April 2019 to March 2020 (so was largely, but not completely, unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown) - we see a reduction in the number of claims made year on year for the first time since the abolition of tribunal fees.  What is more the reduction is fairly significant.

In the year 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 a total of 103,984 employment tribunal applications were made.  This compares to 121,111 the previous year and 109,685 in 2017/18.  This reduction comes as something of a surprise as it had seemed likely that numbers would keep increasing following the abolition of fees and we are still some way off the 2012/13 (the last year prior to the temporary introduction of fees) figure of 191,541 claims. It is very likely though that fewer claims than usual were raised in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

The number of awards of compensation has also fallen from 774 in 2018/19 to 740 in 2019/20. As usual this is a very small proportion of the overall number of claims raised but is should be remembered that a very significant number of cases will resolve themselves, usually on a confidential basis, by way of a financial settlement before a Tribunal hearing takes place.

The detail of the statistics makes for interesting reading.  The highest sum awarded in the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 was £265,719 and was awarded in a disability discrimination claim. This was closely followed by an award of £243,636 for an age discrimination claim. These awards are though considerably lower than some of the awards that have been reported in recent years. For example, the highest award made in 2018/19 was £947,585 (awarded in an unfair dismissal case).

The highest award in an unfair dismissal claim this year was £118,842.  While this is considerably lower than last year's highest award (see above), the mean unfair dismissal award has not changed significantly, rising slightly from £6,243 to £6,646.  The picture is much the same for most of the other claim jurisdictions with the level of median awards remaining fairly steady.  The exception to that is sexual orientation discrimination, religion and belief discrimination and sex discrimination awards.  No awards were made in sexual orientation claims in 2018/19 whereas 5 were made this year with a median of £9,245.   Religious discrimination experienced the opposite - last year 3 awards were made with a median award of £1,500 whereas this year no awards have been made.

Awards in sex discrimination cases stand out as having the most significant change in terms of both median and average awards. Sex discrimination also saw a significant increase in the highest award made.  The median award has more than doubled from £6,498 in 2018/19 to £14,073 in 2019/20 and the average award has increased from £8,774 to £17,420.  In 2018/19 the highest award for a sex discrimination claim was £24,103, in 2019/20 it was £73,619.  The relative increase in the number of claims where awards were made compared to other claim jurisdictions is also significantly higher in sex discrimination cases - 19 awards of compensation were made in 2018/19 compared to 46 awards of compensation in 2019/20.  This could be coincidence but it could also be related to the changing views of society brought about by the #MeToo movement. It may be that this has encouraged more female employees to bring claims with certain behaviours no longer being deemed acceptable.

The number of costs awards made by employment tribunals in 2019/20 has fallen to 177. This follows the trend from 2018/19 where the number of awards dropped to 209, having previously remained static at 479 for the preceding two years. Once again more cost awards were made to employers rather than claimants with the figures being 130 and 47 respectively.

The maximum costs award decreased significantly this year, decreasing from £329,386 in 2018/19 to £103,486 this year.  The median costs award however stayed fairly static, increasingly slightly to £2,500 compared to £2,400 in 2018/19.  

Maximum, Median and Average Awards for Unfair Dismissal and Discrimination 2019/20


Maximum Award

Median Award

Average Award

Unfair Dismissal




Race Discrimination




Sex Discrimination




Disability Discrimination

265, 719



Religion/belief  Discrimination




Age Discrimination




Sexual Orientation Discrimination





The full report is available here (see Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal Tables 2019 to 2020).

It is anticipated that next year's figures will be significantly impacted by the coronavirus situation. There will be a variety of factors including fewer claims brought for a variety of reasons. In addition,   lockdown meant that a significant number of ET claims were put on hold and although there has been a move to on-line hearings and then a gradual re-introduction of face to face hearings the number of cases heard between April 2020 and March 2021 is likely to be considerably fewer than in previous years.  As time goes on it is possible that we will see an increase in the number of claims raised as a result of disputes about payments made under the furlough scheme as well as more unfair dismissal claims flowing from redundancies.  Discrimination claims may also increase with employees and workers challenging selection for furlough and/or redundancy on the grounds of a protected characteristic. We will report on all of this this time next year.


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