Workplace discrimination not only causes detriment to the victim, it can also prove expensive for employers, as new figures revealing that total compensation awarded in discrimination cases reached a record high in 2011 demonstrate.

A total of £8,774,403 was awarded to victims of discrimination in the workplace last year – £3.5 million more than in 2010, according to a survey by the Equal Opportunities Review (EOR).

The data is based on cases at the Bury St Edmunds employment tribunal as well as those sent to the EOR and incorporates two particularly large payouts made by the NHS last year.

The first of these was a £4.5 million payout by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust made to former NHS doctor Eva Michalak, who was found by an employment tribunal to have suffered an “extensive process” of sex and race discrimination.

Meanwhile, another former NHS worker, Elliot Browne, was awarded £933,155 in compensation after being made subject to racial discrimination and unfair dismissal while working for Central Manchester University NHS Foundation.

The EOR’s research found that the average compensation award for discrimination claims in 2011 was £38,484.

Excluding the two unusually large NHS cases, this falls to £15,130 per claim, which is still a slight rise on 2010 when the average award totalled £13,624, reports Personnel Today.

However, the median payout, which the EOR claims is a better indicator of normal compensation levels for discrimination cases as it is less affected by extreme cases, fell to £7,518 from £8,000 in 2010.

Speaking to Personnel Today, Stephen Simpson, senior employment law editor at XpertHR, said: “The very high average award of £38,848 will scare some employers, but the truth is that it is relatively rare for tribunals to award compensation of tens of thousands of pounds.

“The average award has been pushed way up by two exceptionally high awards for NHS workers and can be explained by very high loss of earnings and loss of pensions that these senior employees suffered.”