4.4 Preparation for the hearing
To ensure you do not miss any tasks (Directions) set by the Tribunal, it is best to diarise them, and make sure you give yourself enough time to do whatever is being asked, be it Listing Documents, or preparing your Witness Statement.
No matter what claim you are bringing in the Employment Tribunal (unfair dismissal, discrimination claim), the main two Directions given by the Tribunal will be for a Hearing Bundle to be agreed and created, and for Witness Statements to be exchanged.
List of Documents/ Hearing Bundle
Here you are required to list all the documents you have in your possession that relate to your claim, whether they assist your claim or not. The list is then disclosed to the other side.
The list of documents can include your contract of employment, emails you have sent or received, letters from your employer, minutes of meetings, policies or procedures, documents relating to any disciplinary hearing or appeal hearing, and any other written evidence you may seek to rely upon.
When disclosing the List, it is best to place the documents in chronological order, state the documents date and short description such as “Dismissal Letter from Respondent”, and then number the documents from 1 onwards. The other side can then request documents from your list that they may not have, and you are entitled to request the same from their list.
The two Lists created will usually have a number of documents that are the same, with both parties having the same documents in their possession. The documents stated in the Lists are then used to create the Hearing Bundle.
The Hearing Bundle will be the file of documents that will be used at the Hearing, and which the Tribunal will refer to.
Before the Bundle is agreed, your employer (the Respondent) who will usually have been tasked to create the Bundle for the Hearing by the Tribunal, should send a draft Bundle Index for you to approve. These documents are the evidence in your case, it is vital that you make sure that any documents you are seeking to rely on is contained within the Bundle. If there are any missing, you must ask for them to be included.
Once the Bundle Index is agreed, you employer (the Respondent) should provide you with a copy of the agreed Bundle.
To support your claim, you must provide a Witness Statement to the Tribunal prior to the Hearing, and in accordance with the Directions set by the Tribunal. This will be your version of events, and therefore is a very important document. When you give evidence at the Hearing, this will usually consist of you reading out your Witness Statement.
In addition, should you also wish to rely upon other individuals who were witness to the events, then a Witness Statement will need to be provide by these individuals. Please be aware that those individuals who give a Witness Statement on your behalf, must then appear at the Hearing in order for the other side to question them, otherwise their Witness Statement will carry little weight.
Please note that the Tribunal will not allow you to add anything or change to your witness statements once they have been exchanged, so it is imperative to get the statement right first time.
Also if you believes that an individual has relevant evidence to give at the Hearing, but is not willing to attend the Tribunal voluntarily, then you have the option to make an Application to the Tribunal for a witness order, which will compel that individual to attend. From a practical point of view, it is best to have Witnesses would are willing to attend the Hearing of their own accord.
When drafting your Witness Statement, it is advisable to:-
- Start by clarifying what your job role/ title was and how long you have worked for your employer;
- State again what claim you are bring and why;
- State what happened and when in clear language. It is better to state dates if possible. It is strongly recommended that you deal with matters in the order that they occurred to prevent you statement jumping;
- If you mention other individuals, you must give their name in full, and if applicable their job role/ title;
- You do not need to use any legal language, or try to sound posh – it is best to use your own words so there is no misunderstanding;
- If any incident you are claiming about included abuse or foul language, then you should include that in your Statement and should not be concerned or embarrassed by it (it is common for a Tribunal to deal with foul language); and
- If possible, you should try and reference documents included in the Hearing Bundle IN YOUR Witness Statement. For example if you were dismissed, you could refer to “…the Dismissal Letter at page 14 of the Bundle”, or “Appeal Letter at page 18 of the Bundle”.
The same pointers should be used for any other individuals giving a Witness Statement on your behalf.
Finally, concerning the exchange of witness statement, the Tribunal will set a date for the exchange. Before you send your witness statement it is best to check with the other side to see if they are ready to exchange and agree an exact time (usually 4.00pm) for the exchange to take place simultaneously. This is to prevent the other side from seeing your Witness Statements early, and affording them the opportunity to amend their Witness Statements.
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