Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. It’s a common utterance but when it comes to employment tribunals, so often organisations fail to heed this crucial piece of advice.
Defending a claim brought in the Employment Tribunal can be both costly and time consuming for employers. Factor in the very limited grounds upon which an Employment Tribunal judgment can be appealed it becomes clear that getting it right first time is critical to achieving a favourable outcome.
As we prepare for our Mock Employment Tribunal workshop on Thursday 4thJuly, our litigation professionals have been discussing the common mistakes employers make – and offer their expert advice on how to prevent them.
Lack of preparation
It’s important for everyone involved in the hearing to prepare and to ensure that any relevant documentation they have is disclosed. Once you receive the document bundle, you should review it and familiarise yourself with the contents. This is not just the responsibility of your legal representative or team.
Key documents include items such as meeting minutes and all witness statements, not just your own. It’s important to highlight key points and remember the all-important details. In doing this, you’ll come across as organised and credible. Sometimes you might need help picking out those important details. Don’t be afraid to ask your legal representative for guidance if you are unsure.
Making mistakes under cross-examination
An experienced interrogator will find it very easy to trip up an inexperienced witness. We cannot stress how important is it for all witnesses to be properly prepared for cross-examination. Giving evidence is not a pleasant experience and the style of questioning used is designed to catch witnesses out. The smallest details can be used to discredit a witness in a matter of seconds.
Those asking the questions have probably been involved in hundreds of hearings and seen it all. Don’t be that rabbit caught in the headlights and go into the hearing not knowing what to expect.
Placing too much trust in your lawyers
Although we advocate having legal representation present during an employment tribunal (we are employment law experts who have defended employers in thousands of tribunal cases after all!), there is a fine line between having a legal representative present at the hearing and being overly reliant on their skills.
Whilst it is acceptable for a lawyer or legal representative to prepare witness statements on behalf of those involved, each witness must review and check their statement thoroughly before entering the hearing room. We’ve seen cases dismissed and witnesses discredited simply through failure to read their own statements properly.
Failing to take ownership
Everyone attending the tribunal must be confident in their role in the tribunal process, either as a representative of the organisation or as a witness. An Employment Tribunal hearing is a legal process, and many people go into this without fully understanding the enormity of the event.
Employers must ensure they understand the process and make sure they follow it correctly. Failure to do this may fatally undermine defence of the claim, or even result in the lodging of a defence being precluded.
For inexperienced witnesses, familiarising yourself with the environment and setting you’ll be in, as well as what to expect on the day, will stand you in good stead and help you to control any nerves. Taking the time to understand any unfamiliar legal terminology involved will also help you feel less intimidated.
Which leads us on to…
Letting the fear factor take over
We can all get nervous when placed in unfamiliar environments or faced with the unknown. An Employment Tribunal hearing can be a daunting and stressful experience.
The most credible witnesses are those who come across as calm, confident and prepared. We believe the best way to conquer your fears and perform strongly is to familiarise yourself with the process and understand what’s involved.
If you, or someone in your organisation, would like to enhance your knowledge and experience of tribunal procedure and protocols, and learn how to present a case at hearing and give evidence as a witness, then you should definitely consider attending our Mock Employment Tribunal event taking place on 4thJuly.
Employment tribunal representation
Employment tribunal representation is one of our core services. We’ve handled thousands of cases on behalf of clients, and have an impressive track record of securing the most favourable outcome for our clients.
If you have recently been notified of a claim, or are imminently facing a hearing, we are happy to provide a free, no-obligation review of your case. Contact us for a chat.
Take a look at our listings for details of forthcoming events.