The case involved an unfair dismissal claim in the Bristol Employment Tribunal.
The hearing was listed for 2 days on 30 and 31 July.
The Claimant had 4 witnesses including himself and we had 3 witnesses.
Make sure your IT is working
I was planning to take part in the hearing from my temporary office at home. The Wi Fi there is good and I have had lots of Zoom and Team calls over the past few months without any problems at all.
However, when I logged on to the Tribunal cloud video platform (CVP) and spoke to the clerk, my Wi Fi signal became unstable and the screen froze.
I ended up moving to another room and plugging my laptop directly into the router to ensure I had a proper connection.
If you have a hearing coming up my advice would be to use a wired connection and don’t rely on Wi Fi.
Join the hearing early
The Tribunal will send an email to each party’s representative with a link and access code which they can use to access the CVP for the hearing.
These should be forwarded to each witness.
It can take some time to be admitted to your particular hearing so I recommend logging in perhaps half an hour in advance.
When you log in you will be greeted by a clerk who will take your details and then pass you into a virtual waiting room.
When the Judge is ready to start, the screen will open up, showing all the participants – Judge, representatives, and witnesses.
Maintaining contact between solicitor and client
You will need to have a means of communicating with each other during the hearing – e.g. to ask your client a question about something the Claimant has said in evidence, or to nudge your solicitor to ask a particular question of a witness.
I recommend WhatsApp or Text etc.
Avoid email unless you are using a separate device for the hearing.
What you don’t want is emails coming up on your screen during the hearing. It’s a distraction and you may have to minimise the CVP screen to be able to read them.
Bundle and Statements
Every witness should have in front of them a copy of the Bundle and all the Witness Statements from both parties.
If one of your witnesses wants to swear on a holy book rather than affirm, they will need their own copy in front of them.
During the hearing there is sometimes background noise from the clerk’s office or the room being used by one of the witnesses or representatives.
Don’t be shy about using the chat facility on the left hand side of the screen to alert the clerk and the Judge to the issue.
We had an issue with staff chatting in the background in the clerk’s room and the Judge responded quickly to our request that he ask the clerk to mute his microphone.
I was apprehensive about how difficult it would be to present our case properly by video.
I have only ever represented clients in person at Tribunal hearing centres and I was worried that it wouldn’t be possible to properly question witnesses via video.
As it turned out, there were no difficulties in questioning witnesses or in raising issues with the Judge or making submissions.
The Judge managed the whole process well and everything went smoothly.
I think also that it was a less stressful experience for the witnesses, being able to give evidence from their office or home.
If this is the future for Tribunal hearings, then I don’t have a problem with it.