Witness statements in employment tribunals
This article gives you detailed advice about how to write your own witness statement/s in the employment tribunal.
Top 3 Tips
- Get the right style
- Don’t repeat what’s in the ET1 form
- Refer to the case documents
Witness statement style
The statement is a first person perspective account of what happened to you at work, and also what has happened since then. It should be in chronological order, with numbered paragraphs, for example
- on 20 March 2017, I did this or I did that.
- on 30 March 2017, Mr Smith of the Respondent did this or that.
Use one and a half line spacing and at least 12 point, preferably Times New Roman.
The style is important as it shows the judge that you know what you are doing, and first impressions are important in employment tribunals, as with any court. A well written witness statement can also scare the ‘other side’ (the employer) into submission and act as a catalyst for negotiating a favourable settlement, for example by way of a settlement agreement, or a ‘COT3’. (A COT3 is a type of settlement agreement negotiated after an employment tribunal claim has been started, but before the case gets as far as a tribunal hearing.)
Witness statement content
The aim is not to repeat the content of your ET1 claim form (or separate Particulars of Claim document if that’s what you used) but instead to add additional information which the tribunal will not have seen before. Types of additional information would include:
- Comments on the ET3 (defence document)
- Details of your attempts to mitigate your loss (get another job)
- Comments on the documents disclosed by the both side (you won’t have seen these at the ET1 stage). And comments about documents which are clearly missing, and perhaps withheld intentionally.
- Comments on any written answers or further information obtained from the Respondent (the employer) after proceedings started.
When you are commenting on the documents, it is good practice to refer to page numbers of the bundle, as the judge will be grateful for this time saving exercise when trying to cross reference your statement with the paginated bundle of documents which will be used in Tribunal.
Exchange of witness statements
At the preliminary hearing, or by letter, the tribunal will set out a schedule for the case which will include a date for the exchange of witness statements. That date will generally be around 4 weeks prior to the hearing itself – so quite late on in the process. Normally you would confirm with the other side that they are ready to exchange statements at the same time, as you don’t want to give them an advantage by sending yours over first.
If they are not ready then you can apply to the tribunal for an ‘Unless Order’ meaning that unless they comply then their defence will be ‘struck out’, and the tribunal will award a victory to you on paper, and then have a hearing to work out how much you should be awarded. As you can imagine with such a draconian remedy, ‘Unless Orders’ are quite difficult to obtain.
Use in tribunal
The actual witness statement itself will not be read out loud in tribunal, but instead it will be ‘taken as read’, meaning that everyone will have read it to themselves. Then you will be asked by your lawyer if you have anything to add. Then the other side’s lawyer will cross examine you on it. They can also cross examine you on other matters not contained within your witness statement.
If you need representation in tribunal, help drafting your witness statement, or just assistance with negotiating a decent settlement by way of a settlement agreement or otherwise, you have come to the right place.