Category Archives: Equality

Sex Discrimination Tribunal Awards

In this post I present statistics relating to employment tribunals for claims of discrimination on grounds of sex. I have updated the original post to include new information. This has been obtained by Douglas via an FOI (in addition to those linked below). There is now some data on applications disaggregated by sex, which was previously missing. The new material follows Figures 6, in particular Table 1 and Figure 7 and associated text. In particular, there is a new conclusion: “Averaged over the last six years, there have been 3 female applicants for every male applicant, but 8.1 successful women for every successful man. One is obliged to suspect that the sex discrimination tribunal process is itself discriminatory on grounds of sex.”

My thanks to Douglas for providing the data on the compensation payments awarded, by sex, for successful Tribunal cases. I was surprised that the numbers of successful claims were so small. It turns out that the number of cases brought forward is far, far larger, but only a tiny percentage result in a hearing which is successful. Note, however, that Tribunal hearings are not the only route for a complainant obtaining a compensation payment. The bulk of such awards are negotiated via ACAS without a Tribunal hearing being necessary.

The volume of cases brought and their outcomes are provided by the MOJ dataset “Tribunal Statistics Quarterly: April to June 2019”.

The data on awards from Tribunal hearings provided by Douglas derive from this FOI and also this one, plus a Parliamentary request recorded in Hansard.

The more recent data was obtained by Douglas via an FOI which asked “what was the number of cases opened relating to claims of employment discrimination on the grounds of sex, by the sex of the applicant, from year 2013-14“.

Figure 1 shows the dramatic fall in sex discrimination tribunal cases over the last 12 years, the number in 2018/19 being only one-quarter of the number in 2007/8 (about 4,000 compared with about 16,000). Part of the reason for this fall was the introduction of fees in July 2013. These fees were substantial, between several hundred pounds and over a thousand pounds. It is reasonable to assume this would deter some people from bringing cases. There is indeed a fall in cases between 2013/14 and 2014/15 in Figure 1 but this reduction is nowhere near as severe as that which occurred in other (non-sex) employment tribunals.

These tribunal fees persisted only for 4 years, the Supreme Court ruling they were illegal in July 2017, whereupon they were scrapped. Notwithstanding that, there has been no tendency for the number of sex discrimination cases to return to their earlier level. Whilst there were marginally more cases in 2017/18 than in 2016/17, in 2018/19 the number is at an all-time low. Consequently, there appears to be a genuine reduction in underlying incidence, and the dramatic fall in cases is clearly not merely a result of the temporary introduction of fees.

Figure 1

Figure 2 shows the number of compensation payments by sex obtained via Tribunal hearings . The awards were overwhelmingly made to women. (Inevitably one wonders if the initial applicants are comparably skewed by sex, which is addressed below). Figure 2 shows that there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of monetary awards obtained via Tribunal hearings. This reduction is even more marked than the reduction in cases disposed of (Figure 1). There were 175 Tribunal monetary awards in 2008/9 (of which 11 were to men). This fell to only 19 awards in 2018/19 (of which none were to men).

Figure 2

Comparing Figures 1 and 2 implies that only a very tiny percentage of claims result in Tribunal hearings which also award monetary compensation. This is confirmed by Figure 3 which shows the number of cases with various outcomes.

Figure 3

On average over the last 11 years, 71% of sex discrimination claims have either been withdrawn, dismissed, discontinued or “struck-out” . The bulk of the remainder (24%) were addressed by ACAS “Conciliated Settlements”. A tribunal hearing was held for only 5% of sex discrimination claims, 3% unsuccessful and 2% successful. Hence, the monetary awards indicated by Figure 2 will relate largely to the latter 2%.

ACAS Conciliated Settlements will often involve a monetary payment negotiated and agreed between the claimant and the company, mediated by ACAS. In fact, where this is the case, ACAS claim that the complainant successfully receives the agreed sum far more frequently than when the case goes to a Tribunal hearing to resolve the dispute. (But I guess ACAS is bound to talk-up the efficacy of their own services).

The actual percentage of claims resulting in a monetary award is therefore unknown, but does not exceed 26% and is likely to be rather smaller. Thus, the likelihood of monetary compensation is not particularly favourable, and perhaps that fact is driving the reduction in the number of claims.

Data relating to monetary compensation is known only for awards resulting from Tribunal hearings, and it is to these data that Figures 4, 5 and 6 which follow relate.

A small number of people “win big”, as illustrated by Figure 4 which shows the maximum award made in each year. It is women who tend to get the really big six-figure awards, but there are very few of these. As regards the average award per year, there is little difference between the sexes (Figure 5). Averaging the awards to men in years 2015/16 and 2016/17 makes this equity clearer.

Figure 4

Figure 5

However, there are far more monetary awards made to women than to men for sex discrimination (Figure 2) and this applies at every award level, from less than £1000 to more than £50,000 (Figure 6).

Figure 6

Finally, there is the issue of the number of initial applicants by sex, and whether this displays the same skew as seen in the number of Tribunal awards, Figures 2 and 6. For this I use the most recently obtained data (FOIA 190918030). There is a difficulty in comparing directly the data on applicants per year and the data on disposals per year – because of the time delay between a complaint and settlement of the case. The number of “accepted claims by gender” were provided for the six years 2013/14 to 2018/19. The total numbers of accepted claims over this six year period for each sex are shown in Table 1. The Table also gives the total number of cases completed (disposals) over the same period, by sex.

Table 1: Total Claims and Disposals Over the Six Years 2013/14 to 2018/19

Item Women Men Ratio W/M
Number of Accepted Claims 38,666 12,781 3.0
Number of Disposals 40,541 7,201 5.6

Oddly, whilst there are three women to every man making a complaint, what comes out of the back-end of the sausage machine are disposals for 5.6 women to every man. Table 1 suggests that many complaints by men are getting lost, without any recognised outcome. A possible partial explanation is that quite a large number of disposals are listed as “gender not known”. However, it seems improbable that these “unknown gender” cases will be overwhelmingly men when the cases going through the system are strongly dominated by women.

Figure 7 plots against year the number of women per man in each of three categories: original applicants, successful outcomes and unsuccessful outcomes. For this purpose a “successful” outcome is one which results in a successful Tribunal hearing or an ACAS Conciliation Settlement. An “unsuccessful” outcome is a case which is withdrawn, dismissed, discontinued, struck out or is unsuccessful in a Tribunal hearing. Because applicant data is not comparable year-on-year, Figure 7 includes only the average ratio of women to men making claims over the six year period (i.e., 3.0). I note in particular that in year 2016/17 there were more men making sex discrimination claims than women (though this is unusual).

Figure 7

Figure 7 shows that women are generally, though not invariably, more successful than men in making sex discrimination claims. On average over the six year period, there were 8.1 women with successful outcomes to every man with a successful outcome, but only 5.2 women with unsuccessful outcomes to every unsuccessful man.

But worse still, on average over the six year period, the 8.1 successful women to every successful man stands in even starker contrast with there being only 3 female applicants per male applicant. Two possible explanations arise. Either applications by men tend to be weaker than those by women, or the sex discrimination tribunal process is itself discriminatory on grounds of sex. There is a purely statistical reason to doubt the former explanation: the much smaller volume of male applicants suggests self-selection of stronger, not weaker, cases. Moreover, the greater societal scepticism regarding sex discrimination against men is likely to discourage men from making a complaint unless the case is strong.

Conclusions

The number of claims to a tribunal for sex discrimination at work has been falling dramatically (Figures 1 and 2). This appears to be a genuine reduction in incidence not a result of the temporary introduction of fees. That there appears to be less sex discrimination at work is not a message commonly promulgated in the media.

On average over the last 11 years, 71% of sex discrimination claims have been withdrawn, discontinued, “struck-out”, or dismissed after a preliminary hearing.

24% of cases were addressed by ACAS “Conciliated Settlements”, but Tribunal hearings were held for only 5% of sex discrimination claims, 3% being unsuccessful and 2% successful. Hence, fewer than 26% of sex discrimination claims result in a monetary award.

Averaged over the last six years, there have been 3 female applicants for every male applicant, but 8.1 successful women for every successful man. One is obliged to suspect that the sex discrimination tribunal process is itself discriminatory on grounds of sex.

Whatever the current situation, with diversity policies now being driven hard across many major employers, white males can increasingly expect to be refused advancement based purely on sex or race. The incidence of men making sex (or race) discrimination claims may be set to increase.