How big an award will I get if I win my case?

Despite all the tabloid headlines criticising 'huge payouts' to ex-employees who take their ex-employer to a tribunal, in reality most awards are relatively modest, especially when compared with the legal costs, tribunal fees, stress, anxiety, lost time and energy sucked up by the process. Even if you succeed in your claim, your employer may appeal to a higher court. In 2014-15, the median award for unfair dismissal was £6,955.

For discrimination claims, there is no upper limit and the compensation normally includes an element to cover injury to feelings. Again, most awards are much lower than claimants often expect. For example, the median award for a claim for disability discrimination in 2014-15 was £8,646.

For wrongful dismissal (and other breach-of-contract claims) in the tribunals, the upper limit is £25,000. For unfair dismissal, it is currently the lower of 52 weeks' pay or £80,541.

Compensation for unfair dismissal also includes an element to compensate for loss of earnings for the time between the dismissal and the tribunal decision. If you have got a new job, your compensation will be cut to take account of what you have been paid by your new employer. However, the compensation will reflect other losses, such as loss of pension rights.

There is an upper limit on the compensation for loss of earnings, which is reviewed annually. It is currently (and until 5 April 2017) set at £489 a week.

Employers can be made to pay more compensation if they failed to follow the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (PDF, 167KB). Similarly, your compensation can be reduced if you unreasonably failed to co-operate and raise concerns internally in the way suggested by the Acas Code.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.