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  4. Virtual hearings guidance for parties and witnesses
  5. Before the hearing

Before the hearing

It's your responsibility to make sure you, and any witnesses you call, have the appropriate equipment, internet connection and environment. There should be no external factors that are going to impact on your ability, or your witnesses’ ability, to take part in the hearing. You should also make sure that your witnesses have the relevant documents available when giving evidence.

Witness support

You're responsible for providing a suitable witness who can give evidence. Witnesses who are vulnerable might need extra support when giving virtual evidence. It's your responsibility to decide what support a witness may need. You can give support during breaks or once the hearing finishes.

Technical requirements

You need access to a computer or device that has a working camera, microphone and speakers.

Make sure that:

  • your device is charged and plugged in
  • you have the Teams app with the most recent update possible
  • your device’s settings allow your camera and microphone to access Teams.

Your device may have different functionality to what is shown in this guide. We don’t recommend using a mobile phone as functionality will be limited.

You need an internet connection with a minimum of 1mbps download speed and 500kps upload actual speed. You can find your actual speed from tools like Speedtest. For best performance we recommend your workspace is connected to your broadband router via a cable rather than wireless.

For guidance on the speeds available in your area check Ofcom.

Variables that could impact your connection speed while you are connected to the hearing are:

  • how many households are using the same internet line as you
  • others using your internet connection for streaming services, online gaming etc.


When giving evidence, witnesses are required to give an affirmation. If you or your witness wish to give an oath, it’s your responsibility to make sure the correct holy book is available.

Reasonable adjustments

We can provide support before and during the hearing to help you access Teams.

If you need specific reasonable adjustments to take part in a hearing, follow the instructions in the notice of hearing letter.

No-one else should be present in the room when a witness is giving evidence. If you or a witness needs a supporter with you, please raise this with us at the earliest stage.

Test call

A test call will happen if you're participating in a hearing for the first time or you're using a different device. We'll schedule a test call with you the day before the hearing to confirm that you know how to use Teams.

Any potential technical problems can be dealt with during the test call to avoid significant delays to the hearing itself. The device on which the test call takes place should be the same device you intend to use in the hearing. You'll be asked for the following information to enable a test call to take place:

  • Your name
  • Email address that will be used for the hearing
  • Your contact telephone/mobile number
  • Name of the hearing

Test calls can be scheduled to take place between 9.00am and 4.00pm.

A tribunal assistant will send you an invite for the test call to your email address.

You are responsible for witnesses giving evidence. Make sure they know how to use Teams to avoid delays during the hearing. The test call should make sure the witness is prepared for the virtual hearing.

Downloading the Teams application

The Teams app offers a better user experience than the browser. If you don't have the Teams app installed, when you click on the link in the invite you may get a prompt to download the app. You can do this through your app store (such as Google Play or the Apple App Store) or web browser. The app is free to download and use. We would recommend that you download the app while connected to Wi-Fi to avoid any data charges.

Once downloaded, close the app and go back to the invite and select the ‘Click here to join the meeting’ link again.

You might struggle to use Teams if you have an older device or use a laptop with more extensive firewalls. If this happens, use an alternative device.

Teams functions

During the test call make sure you can use the following functions:

Microsoft teams icon for the camera

Turn your camera on/off

Microsoft teams icon for the microphone

Mute on/off (please remain muted when not speaking)

Microsoft teams icon for more options

More options for blurring your background under 'Background effects' and raising your hand (device dependent)

Microsoft teams icon for raising hand

If you wish to speak, please raise your hand. Your device may have this under 'More options'.

Microsoft teams icon for more options

If you don’t see any of the icons, you may need to touch your screen to make them visible.

Depending on the device you're using, you may only see the video image of the participant speaking at any one time. With some devices, you can use the 'Pin' feature to keep a participant visible even if they’re not talking. Select ‘More options’ on their video (or touch and hold down on a participant’s video) and choose 'Pin'  .

During test calls with your witnesses, make sure that they know how to use Teams. You should let them know about any specific requirements relating to the virtual hearing.

The hearing environment

Make sure that you and you witnesses are in a suitable environment for the hearing. For example:

  • Your room is quiet, private and secure. Headphones may help to block out background noise, be aware that the room you are using will be visible to the tribunal and others participating in the hearing
  • Your background is neutral to avoid any distractions or offence to others in the hearing. You can blur your background in the hearing (this is not available on Android devices or joining through a browser). Select ‘More options’ and either select ‘Start video with blur’ or ‘Blur my background’ if your video is already on.
  • You have good lighting.


  • The same professional standards are expected as those you would follow at the hearing centre.
  • Your camera should be switched on when you are giving evidence or making submissions.
  • Remain on mute if you are not speaking.
  • Avoid speaking at the same time as others.
  • Say your name and role before you speak.
  • You should be free from interruptions including phones, doorbells etc.
  • You should have enough time to join the hearing to allow time for set up.
  • If you need a break, please select the raise your hand button.
  • You should be able to view any documents you may need to during the hearing; a second device can be useful - one for the virtual hearing and one for reading the papers, you can however reduce the viewing sizes to fit both on one device.