Can an employer anonymise witness statements obtained during a grievance or disciplinary procedure?
Yes, an employer can anonymise witness statements obtained during a grievance or disciplinary procedure. However, while there is no legal requirement to disclose the identity of witnesses, failure to do so undermines the employee's right to challenge properly the evidence. Employers have an obligation to undertake a fair disciplinary procedure, which will include attempting to obtain reliable, corroborated evidence. The employer should explore the witness's reasons for wishing to remain anonymous and decide whether or not it should disregard such evidence or consider it as holding less weight than statements from named witnesses.
If anonymous evidence is to be used, the employer should seek to corroborate the evidence and to establish at least one identifiable witness, even if this person is not a direct witness to events, such as a manager who has been provided with information from witnesses. It should consider allowing the employee to formulate written questions to be put to the anonymous witness through the employer. The witness's answers can then be examined during the disciplinary process.
The employer should make the witness aware that their anonymity cannot be guaranteed. If the matter results in legal proceedings, they may be subject to a witness order requiring their attendance at the tribunal to provide evidence in the proceedings.