Well, how long is a piece of string??!! This is very difficult, if not impossible, to answer at the early stages of your case, and you really should be getting worried if someone tells you otherwise.
Awards in these cases are based on a number of factors, principally, how much you were earning in your job. The WRC can award up to twice your annual salary for a breach of the law, but it is extremely rare for that sum ever to be awarded.
In an Unfair Dismissal case, the compensation you are awarded will depend on the time it took you to find alternative employment after your dismissal and if this alternative employment was of equal or less remuneration to your former job. Again, the law allows an award up to a maximum of two years’ “loss of earnings”.
Because this is a loss of earnings, knowing you can be taxed on the award is also important. The Revenue treats this simply as income and taxes it as such.
Discrimination claims it is different. The law looks on the award as “compensation” for the manner in which you were treated, and as such, it is not taxed or taxable.
There are also many tax strategies that can be applied depending on the type of case you are taking, and you must be aware of these in each situation.
So what else does an adjudicator look at? Well, for a start, they will ask themselves the question, “Who is to blame for this?”. For example, while an employer might have acted badly, the Claimant themselves may also have contributed to their own demise! This is called “Contributory Negligence” and is a situation where the employee has contributed to their dismissal or ill-treatment.
The effect of contributory negligence is that it can reduce the value of a claim, sometimes quite dramatically. The classic example of contributory negligence is when a dismissed employee is guilty of serious misconduct. In this instance, the WRC may award damages for the Employer’s failure to follow a fair procedure but might then subtract an amount, or percentage, to represent the part that the WRC thinks the employee contributed to or played in their own downfall.
Some people come into us thinking that the WRC will give them a massive award and that they need only sit back and wait for the bags of money to arrive! And it is only human nature to latch onto the higher figure when we see those reported in the press. This can lead to unrealistic expectations followed by a great sense of disappointment if the total you are awarded is far less than that.
We don’t bullshit our Clients and are honest at the start. Only in the most extreme cases will awards on the high end be made, and only where your case has been presented at its height.
Most of our Clients are not interested in the award level anyway. They see that this is more about principle and are more intent on preventing others from experiencing the same treatment in the future. Generally, in discrimination cases, it is genuinely not about the money but about doing something positive for others in the same category as you.
When we have an initial consultation, we emphasise this. We also explore the other non-tangibles, such as the long-term effect of having a blemish on your employment record. What does that mean to your future employment prospects and career ambitions?
But do I have a Good Case?
Unfortunately, no claim is ever 100% guaranteed to succeed, and that is particularly true in the WRC and even more so in the Labour Court.
The chances are that if you have been unfairly treated at work, you may well be entitled to compensation.
The best way to establish whether or not you have a claim is to speak with an expert. Anyone who knows this area will want to investigate the matter further before definitively advising you on your chances of success or whether or not you have a case at all.
However, if someone is willing to take your case on a no-win-no-fee basis, this is usually a good indicator that you have a claim with a reasonably good prospect of success.
But, as with most things in life, there are no guarantees. Even if your case seems ‘cast iron’ at the outset, evidence may emerge in the meantime that may radically alter this assessment, or it may turn out that the person who is liable to compensate you is completely worthless, meaning that the prospect of ever actually securing payment could be remote.
You need to concentrate on returning to work: making sure you find a new job without worrying about whether you will be properly compensated for what happened. We concentrate on all of that for you: making sure that the people responsible for what happened to you are legally liable to compensate you.
If you’d like to find out if you have a good claim, you should contact us or another solicitor who can give you this advice. At a consultation, we will give you our opinion on how best to ensure that you recover the full value of your claim.
However, we will not presume to give you anything like a final valuation of your claim at that stage, and we would suggest that you should be extremely sceptical of anyone who offers to do so, as it’s just too early to be able to do so responsibly.