Like death and taxes, jury duty is one of those things that we just can’t dodge. For many of us it is a fascinating opportunity and insight into the inner workings of our justice system. However some people will come up with all manner of excuses to get out of jury duty, most of which don’t hold water these days; the most common reasons for deferment being medical, childcare, or specific work commitments. Although my personal favourite has to be the entreaties of the potential juror who didn’t want to serve because she ‘didn’t like wool and lawyers wear wool suits….’
But the chances of securing a deferment are by no means guaranteed, and even if secured, it is really only a stay of execution as it were, as you will get called up again having used your one and only get-out of jail, free card. (Do you like what I did there?!)
As the Ministry of Justice said: “Jury Service is one of the most important civic duties that anyone can be asked to perform. It has served us well for hundreds of years and continues to deliver justice across the country every day.”
Indeed. But that said, for many, and not just the person in the dock, the spectre of a brown envelope containing a summons to court can be the stuff of nightmares. Small business owners, especially, can really feel the loss of a key person.
Are you au fait with the rules and procedures around jury service? And if your employee is called up for jury service, have you considered the knock-on effects upon your business?
Having an employee announce they have been selected for jury duty could represent a major business disruption. Or at the very least, leave you scrabbling around finding out what you need to do. So let’s take a look at what you can and can’t do, which will help inform your first response to your employee.
Who can be called up to jury service?
Jury service is a public duty, and anyone on the electoral register aged between 18 and 75 can be selected. A computer randomly picks jurors. If your employee is chosen, they should inform you as soon as possible.
How long does jury service last?
The normal length of time an employee is tied up with jury service is up to ten days. However, for complex trials it can last much longer. If your employee is not required at court, they should return to work unless other arrangements have been made.
Do I have to let my employee go on jury duty?
Yes, in normal circumstances, you do have to let your employee go on jury duty. There is a provision by which you can apply to delay the jury service if it would seriously damage your business. But you can only do this once in a 12-month period, so it is best to only consider this in exceptional circumstances. You’ll need to provide an explanatory letter if you go down this path.
Do I have to pay my employee while they are on jury service?
You do not have to pay your employee while they are on jury service, and that includes pension contributions, but you may choose to. But it is up to you to decide based on the finances and culture of your business. Whatever you decide, be sure to take a consistent approach if the situation arises more than once. Either way, it makes good business sense to incorporate a clear policy into your staff handbook.
If you do continue paying your employee, you calculate the tax and national insurance in the normal way.
If you choose not to pay your employee while they are on jury service, they can request a loss of earnings allowance which is payable by the court. You’ll have to help them receive this by completing a loss of earnings certificate. As well as loss of earnings they can claim a travel allowance and subsistence costs.
Another hybrid approach is to let your employee claim loss of earnings from the court and then top that up to their full pay.
Contact with your employee during their jury service
There may be occasions during the course of the trial when the court is not sitting and the jurors are not required. Jurors are encouraged to keep in contact with their employers during such breaks, either by temporarily returning to work (if they are allowed to by their employer), or discussing with a colleague or manager anything work related which has occurred in their absence. They are not allowed to discuss the details of the case with anyone.
Do employees in jury service receive any special employment protections?
While employees are on jury service they enjoy some enhanced employment protection. They are legally entitled to time away from work and are protected from being treated unfavourably and being dismissed. They cannot be selected for redundancy due to reasons connected to their jury service. If your employee feels these protections have been breached, they can take you to an employment tribunal.
Are you getting the right HR Advice?
Jury service is just one of those many unexpected issues that employing people throws up. It’s hard to keep on top of all the rules and regulations by yourself, as they change constantly, but getting it wrong can be so costly. That’s where my retained advice service comes in.
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