A Tribunal has recently awarded just £2 in compensation for an employer’s breach of the employee’s right to be accompanied to a disciplinary hearing. We explain how nominal damages of this kind can come about.
In this case (Gnahoua v. Abellio) the employee chose to be accompanied to their disciplinary hearing by 2 brothers. But the company had a policy under which they always refused permission for these 2 individuals to attend as chosen companions. This was because they had previously brought a number of Tribunal claims against the company, and had been penalised for vexatious (unwarranted and unreasonable) conduct in these proceedings in the past, and had had a significant cost award made against them.
Because employees have an unfettered right to bring chosen companions to hearings, the company was in technical breach of the law.
However, the claimant had not suffered any loss or detriment at all. They could have brought another companion with them. The case of Toal v. GB Oil has suggested that nominal compensation can be awarded where there is no loss or detriment, in the sum of £2. This is what the Tribunal awarded in this case.
The award of £2 may seem something of pyrrhic victory when the company had presumably spent a lot of money in defending the case.
However, a well-placed costs warning could offer some protection here. Sensible settlement offers and well placed costs warnings are always an important part of employment litigation, especially when the complaint is about nothing more than a technical breach of the rules.