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Employment Law Update - How to be a good witness

One of the things we address in our employment law training is how to prepare for employment tribunals. Many years ago I inherited a tribunal claim. The employer had made some serious errors and was culpable. But he refused to settle, wanting his day in court.

As a witness he was a nightmare. He turned up wearing a rather aggressive pinstripe, argued with the Chairman and lost his temper with the Claimant’s Representative...... I shall never forget the horror of an ‘off piste’ witness. The Chair If you’re going to be a witness, take account of the following points: Address the judge as “Sir” or “Madam”.

  1. Listen politely and respectfully to the panel and legal representatives (even if you do think they’re making an idiotic point). Always allow the legal representative to finish speaking before you answer.
  2. Dress sensibly and conservatively.
  3. Be prepared. Make sure you are familiar with your witness statement, your colleagues’ witness statements and other relevant documents in the hearing bundle. Ahead of the hearing, practice reading your statement out loud.
  4. Speak slowly and clearly, answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if appropriate. Answer all questions directly and do not volunteer more information than is asked. If you don’t know the answer, say so, there is no problem if you genuinely can’t remember or don’t know. Do not be forced to answer a question you do not know the answer to. Always tell the truth and stick to the facts.
  5. Think before you speak and make sure you answer questions as precisely and accurately as you can.
  6. Never lose your temper, remain calm. The opposing party’s representative may try to make you agitated but do not take the bait!

In tomorrow’s blog will provide some more useful tips for employment tribunals. The vast majority of tribunal claims (80%) settle or are withdrawn.

With tribunal claims increasing and the cost of preparing and defending a claim running at about £8,000 to win, it pays to be prepared.

If you can do some of the preparatory work, you can save a substantial amount.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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