How to Write a Witness Statement for the Employment Tribunal.
A witness statement is an essential part of the Employment Tribunal case as it is the witness’s account of events. For this reason, a great deal of time should be spent in preparation of the statement.
Although the statement is the witness’s account of events, it should only contain the information which is relevant to the case. The tribunal may ask the witness to read their statement during the tribunal hearing, so it must be in plain language which is clear and understandable, and written in such a way that it follows a logical order. If this guidance is not followed, then the witness’s evidence in the tribunal will be very difficult to understand. Alternatively, the tribunal may decided to read the witness statement prior to the hearing commencing, for this reason it must contain all the relevant information, as it may not be possible to clarify or expand points raised in the statement.
There are no hard and fast rules about what information should be included in the statement, it all depends on the particular circumstances of the witness. However, every statement should start with the name of the witness, their address, or where they work, and their role (such as employer, employee, friend of the complainant etc.) The statement should be written in short paragraphs, which should be numbered, and if possible, events mentioned in the statement, which relate to documents in the case bundle, should identify the relevant pages of the bundle. For Example “I was employed as a cleaner with the respondent from March 2006 to December 2010. (See the contract of employment, page 4 of the bundle.)”. The reason for referencing the pages in the bundle is to aid both the witness and the tribunal in finding the pages quickly and easily when the witness is giving their evidence during the hearing.
The statement should also be signed and dated. If copies of the statement are being exchanged electronically with the other parties to the case (simultaneous email exchange is now common) the statement should be dated, but does not have to be signed, so long as signed copies are provided to the tribunal on the day of the hearing.
Once the statements have been exchanged, they cannot be changed, hence the reason it is so important to spend the time on the statement and get it right. If a witness wants to amend their statement, it should be done by way of an additional statement, but it is at the discretion of the tribunal as to whether they will accept the additional statement.
The person making the complaint to the tribunal is referred to as ‘the Complainant’. The Employer is referred to as ‘the Respondent’. Unless a person can give direct evidence of the events complained of, they should not be a witness. For example, the Complainant should not ask their friend to be a witness if the friend does not have direct knowledge of the Complainant’s dismissal. The Tribunal cannot take into account the fact that the Complainant spoke to their friend and told them about the dismissal. However, if the friend was present when the complainant was dismissed, or had witnessed events previously which relate to the dismissal, such as accompanying the Complainant to a disciplinary hearing, the witness can give evidence on this event. Likewise the Respondent witnesses should have some knowledge of the Complainant or the Complainant’s case, the fact that they are employees of the respondent is not sufficient for them to be called as a witness.
The rule of thumb is that the fewer witnesses, the better. Too many witnesses can cause confusion. And the simpler the statement, the better.