Giving evidence as a witness at the Employment Tribunal can be a stressful experience.
Here are some top tips to help you give evidence well:
Be prepared. Make sure you are familiar with your written witness statement and all the documents that you refer to in your statement. Read your witness statement the night before the hearing and on the morning of the hearing. You will not be expected to memorise the bundle of documents as you will have a copy of it in front of you when giving evidence. When a document is referred to, you will be told the page number. It is important you find the document in the bundle and refer to it prior to answering any questions concerning the document when giving evidence.
Arrive at the Tribunal in good time and dress smartly.
Make sure your phone is turned off prior to entering the hearing room.
When giving evidence, you must listen to the questions put to you carefully and answer all questions honestly. If you are found to have lied, this is perjury and is a serious criminal offence.
You should begin your answer to questions with “yes”, “no” or “I don’t know” and then add further detail to explain your answer. For example, you could say “yes but…” to qualify it.
You should keep your answers concise and to the point and answer what is asked – do not ramble on when giving answers. This will give a cross-examiner the opportunity to trip you up if what you say does not match what you have previously said. Do not guess an answer. If you can’t remember something, say so. You can always refer to your statement or the bundle of documents in front of you if you need to jog your memory. There is nothing wrong with asking for a minute to read a document before answering a question. If you do not understand the question, you should ask for it to be repeated or rephrased.
Try to relax when giving evidence and be professional. You ideally want to appear confident when giving your answers. You want to come across as likeable to the Judge/Tribunal panel and therefore a credible person.
You should address any answers you give to questions put to you to the Tribunal panel/Judge and not the person asking you the questions. You should give the Judge and the panel members’ eye contact.
The Judge should be referred to as “sir” or “madam” as appropriate.
Do not try to avoid answering questions. This may come across as misleading and affect your credibility as a witness. Be prepared to admit where things could have been done better – do not try to defend the indefensible as this will affect your credibility as a witness. It is about doing things reasonably not perfectly. A Tribunal will prefer you to admit making a mistake than attempting to hide it. Don’t try to deny things which are true as you will come across as unreasonable.
Be prepared for the judge asking you questions in addition to the person cross examining you.
If there is a break when you are giving your evidence, for lunch for example, you will still be under oath which means that you cannot talk about the case to anyone.
Stand firm if you are pushed by the person questioning you. Keep calm and stand your ground if you are confident in your answer but the person questioning you is keen to change your mind.
Your actions will be observed by the Tribunal panel/Judge throughout your time during the hearing room including when you are watching others give evidence. You should therefore ensure you do not tut, shrug your shoulders or use any negative form of body language to express outrage when you disagree with a point being made by a witness giving evidence. You should remain calm and professional throughout the hearing.
Farleys’ employment tribunal solicitors have experience of representing both employers and employees at employment tribunal. For further information call 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.