Push your luck

There’s quite a common belief that employment tribunals don’t award compensation for future loss beyond 3 or 6 months.

Other things being equal, this isn’t a bad rule of thumb. If there’s no good reason to suppose that you are going to have particular difficulty getting another job, or that even if you get another job it will be at a much lower salary than your old job, but you haven’t in fact got another job by the time of the hearing, the tribunal hasn’t got very much to go on. And that is precisely where a rule of thumb comes in handy: it helps you out when you don’t know what to do.

But the other things being equal bit is important. Sometimes other things are not at all equal. If you really do think that there is some reason why you are at a serious disadvantage in the labour market, and your career is not likely to be back on its old track for years if ever, then tell the tribunal all about it and ask for compensation for the whole of your loss.

You will be much better placed to make good a claim of this nature if you have found another job by the time of the hearing. This is because that fact in itself is a powerful piece of evidence about your strength in the labour market and your likely future earnings. Where a claimant has not yet got another job at the time of the hearing, tribunals often assume – perhaps unrealistically – that when they do get another job, they will match their old earnings so their loss will cease at that point. So they make a guess as to how long that will be – and the guess often is 3 or 6 months – and award lost earnings for that period only.

If on the other hand you’ve got another job on significantly less pay at the time of the hearing, the tribunal has much more information to go on. The fact that you have accepted a lower-paid job is a pretty convincing demonstration that you can’t do better at the moment: certainly the tribunal will take a lot of convincing that you’ve deliberately taken a badly paid job in order to inflate your claim.

You can also make more confident and better-founded predictions about the future once you have found another job. You may be in a position to say, for example, that you intend to stay in this job for at least 2 years because you don’t want a fragmented CV; or that although this job isn’t very well paid at the moment, it is sensible for you to stay in it because it is with a large and copper-bottomed employer and you think your chances of promotion in between 3 and 5 years are good; or that you have been lucky to get a job with hours that make it possible for you to take a part-time college course to retrain for a change of career that will allow you to earn better in future – but not for another 5 years.

If you have plans or expectations of this sort, don’t limit yourself to claiming a few months’ future loss. It is important to be realistic, of course, so don’t – either – make wild claims that you can’t support with evidence.

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