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Charlie Duff

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HR tip: Anonymous witness to incident


These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.


Goods have been pilfered from our canteen. We have a pretty good idea who is the culprit but the only witness refuses to give evidence for fear of reprisals. Can we do anything?


I can understand the witness’s concern and it is not uncommon. Interview the witness in confidence and ask for as much information as you may possibly need. Write it all down, read it back to the witness and have him or her sign it to the effect that it is accurate. At the disciplinary interview read the statement to the accused employee having first removed in some way anything that could identify the witness. If the accused employee wishes to cross-examine the witness, make a note of all the questions, adjourn the interview and then, again in confidence, put the questions to the witness and note the responses.

Reconvene the interview, give the answers and then proceed as normal. When you come to weigh up the evidence, consider care fully why the witness wishes to remain anonymous. Is it truly fear of reprisal or could there be some more nefarious motive? This may affect the value you put on the evidence.

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Charlie Duff


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