5 top do’s and don’ts: Preparing for and attending an Employment Tribunal
- Be prepared.
In the days before the hearing, read your witness statement and familiarise yourself with the content. If your statement refers to documents that appear in the hearing bundle, read the relevant documents so that you have some idea of the content. It is particularly important that you read letters and documents that you wrote, or were written in your name. It is generally a good idea to read all of the witness statements before the hearing, including those of your opponent. Also think carefully about your case and consider if there is anything else that you need to tell your representative about any aspect of the case. At the hearing, do not rush in to fill awkward silences, and make sure that you have actually heard the question correctly before you answer. Do not try to second guess what your questioner is getting at. The Tribunal may well be suspicious of, or irritated by a smart-Alec.
- Be on time.
Find out in advance where the hearing venue is and the time that you need to arrive. You should aim to arrive at least 30 minutes before the hearing is scheduled to start and no later than the time that your representative recommends.
- Dress smartly.
Wear a suit or at least a blazer. This shows courtesy and respect. If you do not feel comfortable in a suit or blazer, deal with it! Any discomfort will be a constant and helpful reminder of the serious nature of the proceedings. Any extreme discomfort can be minimised by wearing a blazer or suit of the correct size.
- Be respectful.
Address the Tribunal politely (address male Judges as Sir, and female Judges as Ma’am). Do not answer a question with a question unless you cannot hear the question you are asked, or you do not understand a question you are asked. Do not enter into a battle of wits with your questioner.
- Do not distract you representative, or disrupt the court.
Once the hearing is underway, your representative will need to focus. Before the hearing, ask your representative what he or she would like you to do if you need to bring something to his/her attention during the course of the hearing. It is also important that you keep noise to an absolute minimum.
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