In England and Wales witness statements are now expected. In Scotland, they are less common.
Each witness’s evidence should be fully set out in a statement. It should be written, where possible, in chronological (date) order.
It is best to type the statement, with numbered paragraphs and sub-headings, and line spacing. If it refers to documents in the bundle for the hearing, the page number from the bundle should be given in brackets, so the Tribunal can cross-refer between the documents. Sometimes the tribunal will oder that it be written in a certain format.
If the representative writes the statement, s/he should make sure the witness agrees with the contents. The witness must understand that the statement is their evidence; they must check their statement is accurate
The Claimant’s statement should be consistent with the tribunal Claim form and documents written at the time. If this is not possible, an explanation will be needed as it undermines the credibility of the witness to be giving contradictory information.
Statements may need to be read out at the hearing. Make sure they are in short easy-to-read sentences. More often, however, the witness will not be required to read out the statement and the tribunal members will read it themselves at the start of the hearing.
You might find it helpful to look at a sample witness statement, although it is shorter than a typical statement. A Claimant’s witness statement in a case of normal length could easily be 3,500 to 6,000 words. It is important to focus on the key issues. For example, in a discrimination case, you will need to focus on the way the Claimant was treated differently to other workers and the evidence of this. Tribunals expect all the evidence to be in the witness statements apart from anything new coming out of the witness statements from the other side.
The witness statements should be signed and dated, and exchanged with the employer is advance of the hearing. Usually, there is an agreement, or suggestion from the Tribunal, that the Claimant and the employer exchange witness statements about seven days before the hearing. Each side should bring 5 extra copies of each of their own witness statements for the Tribunal panel, the witness box and a spare. The witness statement does not form part of the ‘bundle’ for the hearing.
Sometimes a supplemental witness statement is needed. This will be the case where new issues have come up during the proceedings. If this happens the tribunal will order them and they are treated in the same way as the initial witness statement.
If it is a long detailed case with a lot of facts, tribunals like to be given a chronology at the hearing, setting out the key events with dates.
It is common to agree the content of the chronology with the Respondent.
You might find it helpful to look at a sample chronology.
If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.