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What is Evidence?

Recently I reviewed the notes from an investigation. There was an awful lot of telling the employee what he had done wrong and not very much asking of questions.

This is fairly typical of an inexperienced manager. All too often I have to go back several times and ask “What are the facts that underpin your assertion that something is not right? In other words, what evidence can you show me to prove your case?”

Without the facts we can’t do all that much, especially where the employee has more than two years’ service.

Recently a client asked me: “What is evidence?”

One definition is: The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. For example, “His pallor was evidence of his ill health”.

What we’re looking for are examples or information which supports a fact or facts. If it’s a disciplinary matter we’re not looking for guilt, we are looking for the facts.

The evidence can take the form of witness statements, documents including postal correspondence or emails, induction and training records, certificates, meeting notes, policies and procedures, photographs, diagrams, drawings, audio recordings, CCTV, vehicle trackers etc.

The workplace is governed by employment law, so if challenged we always have to be in a position to prove that the decision we’ve taken is reasonable and justifiable. That means providing evidence to support our actions. The need for evidence applies to many aspects of employment – recruitment, grievances and investigation, amongst others.

For example, in recruitment, an interviewer might write “scruffy” to describe the appearance of a candidate. While the candidate may be very scruffy indeed, this description is subjective and unhelpful. We need the facts. It would be more helpful if we understood what is meant by “scruffy”. If the interviewer writes the following we have a much clearer picture and this constitutes evidence:

The candidate wore jeans, which were dirty and ripped at the knee. He wore trainers which were unlaced. On his head he wore a baseball cap throughout the interview. This was on back-to-front. He chewed gum while he made his answers. His fingernails were bitten.

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2017 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.

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