14 February 2012
60 second guide
...to attending an employment tribunal
Most managers dread the prospect of giving evidence in an employment tribunal, but with a bit of preparation and a cool head, the experience doesn't have to be an ordeal.
Do your homework
As with many things, the key to being an effective witness is preparation. A well-prepared witness statement will allowing you to present evidence in a clear and logical fashion, so as to best support your organisation's case. Witness statements are usually exchanged well in advance of the tribunal hearing.
In a bid to limit the length of hearings from April 2012 onwards, all tribunals will take exchanged witness statements 'as read' – so you won't be asked to read your statement aloud before cross-examination and questioning. By the time you give evidence in tribunal, therefore, you should be very familiar with the contents of the statement and any associated documents such as performance reviews or disciplinary letters.
Deal with facts not feelings
As emotionally charged as employment disputes inevitably become, a tribunal will be more influenced by the evidence of a witness who remains calm, confident and non confrontational, as opposed to one who allows their (maybe understandable) frustrations to bubble over.
Witnesses must realise that their role is limited to providing factual information, not commenting on the adequacy or otherwise of the law or offering irrelevant personal opinions.
The witness who remains professional and answers each question clearly, without being evasive, dismissive, rambling or aggressive, will be the most persuasive.
Truth will out
Remember, evidence at tribunal is given on oath. If you can't remember a specific detail, acknowledge this rather than just stating something you hope will help the case. Nothing will undermine a witness more than being caught out.
Ruth Nodder, principal legal adviser, EEF
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