Disciplinary Hearing Witness Statements

Witness statements play an important role in disciplinary hearings at work.


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


16 January 2023


17 July 2024
4 min read
Disciplinary Hearing Witness Statements

Witness statements play an important role in disciplinary hearings at work. They provide factual accounts of behaviours experienced or observed and are used to aid fair disciplinary processes. A witness statement is one way to ensure that all parties involved are thoroughly heard before any decisions regarding the outcome are made.

Read on for an overview of how witness statements can affect the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, and some tips to share with anyone who needs to prepare one at your organisation.


When Do Employers Need To Use Disciplinary Hearings?

As a business owner or senior manager, it falls to you to ensure that your workplace is free of misconduct, harassment, poor behaviour, and other instances of negligence or illegal activity. If any member of the team is suspected of acting inappropriately at work, then you should follow the disciplinary process outlined in your employee handbook and workplace policies.

Part of this process is likely to include a disciplinary hearing and witness statements, so it's important to have a clear understanding of the process involved and how witness statements can be used to ensure that the outcome will be as fair as possible for all involved.


What Is A Witness Statement?

What Is A Witness Statement

A witness statement is a written document that outlines what the witness observed or experienced. They are an important part of any disciplinary hearing as they can provide key evidence for the hearing panel to consider when making their decision.

A witness statement should include factual information and not personal opinion, and be clear, concise, and accurate, to provide valuable evidence for the disciplinary hearing panel to consider when making their decision.


Why Are They Needed?

Witness statements are typically used in a disciplinary hearing when an employee is accused of misconduct. This could include issues such as dishonesty, harassment or insubordination, but could cover any act that doesn't comply with company standards or expectations.

Witness statements are important for disciplinary hearings as they provide an objective record of events. The witness statement should detail what the employee observed and how they were affected by it. It should also include any relevant facts that could help to support or refute the accusation.

Without this evidence, it can be difficult for the hearing panel to make a fair decision. Witness statements can also help employers form a clearer picture of the situation and determine whether disciplinary action is necessary.


Who Can Be Asked To Provide A disciplinary hearing witness statement?

Any individual who has witnessed the alleged misconduct can be asked to provide a witness statement. This could include colleagues, supervisors or customers. It is important to remember that anyone providing a statement should not be subjected to bias or intimidation for doing so.

Witnesses should be carefully chosen, and their statements should be taken respectfully. It is also important to ensure that all witnesses are treated fairly and not subjected to bias or intimidation during the process.


Tips For Writing A Witness Statement:

If you need to request a witness statement from anyone at your organisation, you should make the witness aware that they need to:

  • Make sure that all facts are clear and accurate.
  • Keep personal opinions out of the statement.
  • Provide sufficient detail to help establish what happened.
  • Use language that is respectful and not judgmental.
  • Include any relevant dates, times or locations that could help to support the statement.

How Can Witness Statements Impact The Outcome of A Disciplinary Hearing?

How Can Witness Statements Impact The Outcome of A Disciplinary Hearing

Witnesses typically provide firsthand accounts which can serve to corroborate or refute the allegations made or offer additional details that the accused party may not be aware of.

This information can greatly change the outcome of such hearings; for example, if enough witness statements claim that the alleged offence was committed, then a disciplinary committee would be more likely to come to a guilty decision than if there were no witnesses at all.

Conversely, witness testimony against the accused person could lighten their recommended punishment or even exonerate them entirely. When presented correctly, a well-crafted, impartial witness statement that is free from personal opinions or bias, can help to make sure that any disciplinary decisions are fair and just.


Disciplinary Procedure Steps

Once all witness statements have been collected, the disciplinary hearing should take place following the workplace policies and procedures. Generally, this will involve an introduction to the hearing panel, a review of the alleged misconduct by the employee, a presentation of any evidence including witness statements, a chance for each side to present their case and make their arguments, and a decision by the panel.

Once the hearing has concluded, it is important to keep all witnesses informed of the outcome. They should also be made aware of any follow-up actions that may have been taken as a result of the disciplinary hearing.


Can Employees See A Copy Of Witness Statements?

It's not uncommon for employees who have expressed a grievance, and are not content with the result, or those who have been let go as a result of a disciplinary hearing, to request copies of all documents used to conclude the outcome reached. This could include the witnesses' statements, and meeting records for example, but do they have a right to see them?

Employees have the right under the UK General Data Protection Regulation (retained from EU Regulation 2016/679 EU) to request access to information about them that is held on file, and according to the Acas code of practice regarding disciplinary and grievance proceedings, which is taken into consideration by tribunals, it's normally appropriate for employers to provide employees with copies of any written evidence when notifying them about a disciplinary hearing.

Employers can however refuse a request to see a witness statement if its disclosure would also reveal information about a third party who can be identified from the information, and that party hadn't given permission for their personal information to be disclosed or shared.


Summary & Next Steps

Witness statements play an essential role in disciplinary hearings. They provide an objective record of events and can help employers make a fair decision when disciplinary hearings need to be held.

Witness statements must be carefully collected. Witnesses must be treated respectfully, and employees must be given access to the records held if requested.

If you would like support with managing and understanding your HR and employer responsibilities surrounding disciplinary hearings, disciplinary procedures, or using witnesses as part of the process, please talk to your Neathouse contact.

The team can help ensure that your organisation is following best practices, provide advice on how to handle any difficult disciplinary issues, or even manage the whole process from start to finish on your behalf.

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