Witness statements form an important part of the disciplinary and grievance procedures and employers should be aware of some tips for gathering reliable statements.
Employers have an obligation to undertake a fair procedure which will include attempting to obtain reliable, corroborated evidence from any witnesses. If the case ends up in an employment tribunal, the tribunal will consider the contents of any witness statements in making decisions about whether there is sufficient evidence for supporting an accusation.
Here are some top tips for gathering witness statements:
- Consider who needs to be interviewed – you should attempt to get statements from everyone who has witnessed the incident.
- Make sure the witness is given enough time to provide a full statement – if there is an manager investigating the case, they should have some set questions to ask to ensure as much information as possible is provided by the witness.
- Try to obtain the statements promptly so that the disciplinary or grievance procedure is not unreasonably delayed.
- Where possible, ensure the statements are typed so they can be read by all involved.
- Ensure it is clear who is providing the statement and it needs to be signed and dated by the witness.
- The witness should give their consent for the statement to be shared with the employee who is the subject of the disciplinary or who has raised the grievance.
- Some witnesses might want their statement to be anonymised. You should explore the witness’s reasons for wishing to remain anonymous and see if there are any reassurances you can offer. If anonymous evidence is used, you should try to corroborate the evidence and to establish at least one identifiable witness.
- There will be occasions where it is preferable for the witness to be interviewed by an investigating manager who can then ensure that the statement is presented in the right format i.e. typed, signed and dated.
If you need any assistance with any aspect of an investigation, please give us a call.