When one of your team members gets a jury summons, it can come as a surprise. You have to allow employees time off for jury service, but it’ll never feel like a good time. However, there are things you can do to reduce the impact on your business, like helping staff defer their jury duty and helping them plan for their time away from work.
In this guide, we’ll explain how long jury service lasts, how you can plan for periods of absence among your team and whether you have to pay your staff when they’re on jury duty, along with how you can construct a jury service policy that supports your team before, during and after their service.
Table of Contents
- What is Jury Service?
- How Long Does Jury Service Last?
- Is Jury Service Mandatory?
- Can I Ask My Employee to Defer Their Jury Duty?
- Do I Have to Pay Employees When They’re on Jury Service?
- What is the Procedure if an Employee is Called for Jury Service?
- Jury Duty for Self-Employed
- Employer Jury Duty Obligations: How to Build a Jury Duty Policy
What is Jury Service?
Jury service, sometimes called jury duty, is a legal obligation where you sit on a trial as a juror to decide whether someone is innocent or guilty of a crime, based on the evidence presented.
Most adults aged under 70 are eligible for jury service, and jurors are selected at random from the electoral register. There are only some exceptional circumstances that excuse someone from serving:
- If they are currently on bail in criminal proceedings.
- If they have ever been sentenced to prison for 5 years or more.
- If they have been imprisoned within the last 10 years.
- If they’re currently in hospital or receiving treatment for a mental illness.
However, the chance of actually being called for jury service is relatively low: just 35% in England and Wales. In Scotland, there’s a 95% chance that you’ll receive a summons, but the chance of actually sitting on a jury is about 30%.
How Long Does Jury Service Last?
Jury service typically lasts up to 10 working days, but it could be longer if someone is called for more than one trial or a trial goes on for longer than expected. In Northern Ireland, a jury panel is usually in place for about 4 weeks. Your employee will be informed if they will be needed for longer and you can ask them to let you know as soon as they know.
Is Jury Service Mandatory?
Yes. If your employee receives a jury summons, they must serve, defer, or ask to be excused (if they have a valid reason). You can’t refuse to let them do jury service as it’s a public duty, and your employee could face a £1,000 fine or even arrest if they don’t turn up.
Can I Ask My Employee to Defer Their Jury Duty?
If your employee gets called for jury service at a bad time for your business, you can ask them to delay their service until a better time. You’ll need to provide them with a letter explaining why their absence will seriously harm your business.
But you will have to let them go eventually. Your team member can only delay jury service once in a 12-month period, and when they reply to their summons they’ll need to say when they’ll be available.
Do I Have to Pay Employees When They’re on Jury Service?
You don’t have to pay employees when they’re on jury service, but many employers do as a gesture of goodwill. Paying your team members when they are absent due to a legal obligation is a good way to increase work motivation and job satisfaction as it shows that you care about them.
If you can’t pay your employee while they’re on jury service, they can claim an allowance for food and travel expenses and loss of earnings.
What is the Procedure if an Employee is Called for Jury Service?
You have some legal obligations as an employer when one of your team is called for jury service:
- You must allow them time off. The law says that all eligible adults must do jury service when called up and there’s no getting out of it. However, you can ask your employee to take it as unpaid leave.
- You can’t discriminate against your employee for going on jury service. If you pass over them for promotions, decline reasonable holiday requests or dismiss them due to them going on jury service, you could end up in serious trouble.
- You could be taken to tribunal if you dismiss an employee for going on jury duty. This could cost thousands of pounds – probably much more than the team member’s salary.
Jury Duty for Self-Employed
Jury duty for self-employed individuals works slightly differently. If you’re self-employed, although you won’t receive payment during jury service, you may be eligible to claim reimbursement for certain expenses if your income is impacted. During each day of court attendance, you can typically seek:
- Up to £64.95 to offset the loss of earnings and cover expenses related to care or childcare beyond your usual arrangements.
- £5.71 for food and drink.
- Reimbursement for travel expenses to and from the court.
If the dates in your jury summons don’t work for you, you can request a postponement.
For individuals receiving benefits or financial support, promptly inform your benefits office or work coach upon receiving the jury summons. Financial support and benefits, such as Universal Credit, will continue for the initial eight weeks. Subsequently, the court will furnish you with a loss of earnings form to submit to your benefit office or work coach.
Find out what you can claim on the government website.
Employer Jury Duty Obligations: How to Build a Jury Duty Policy
While the law says that you have to allow your team members to go on jury service, there are things that you have more control over. It’s best to put together a jury service policy so everyone knows what to expect should they be called up.
Here are the key elements you need to consider when you’re constructing your jury service policy:
Decide what you want to do about pay
There are 3 things you can do when it comes to paying employees while they’re on jury service:
- You can decide not to pay them. Make sure you state this clearly near the beginning of your policy. It’s good practice to offer advice on how to claim for the loss of earnings allowance. You’ll need to fill in a certificate of loss of earnings, which your team member will get with their jury duty letter. Be aware that some team members may need more help with filling in all the relevant forms than others.
- You can top up their loss of earnings allowance. As of 2023, the daily allowance is up to £64.95 plus £5.71 for food and drink and any travel costs to and from the courts. To stop your team member from losing out on pay, you can top up this allowance; simply subtract the court allowance from your team member’s usual take-home pay, then work out the gross amount you need to pay them.
- You can pay your employee in full. You don’t need to do anything differently – work out tax and National Insurance contributions as usual. You can’t claim back the money you’ve paid them or any losses your business has made while your team member has been away.
Be clear on your stance against discrimination
Although you legally can’t discriminate against your employees that do jury service, they might still be worried that you will. Make it clear in your policy that managers discriminating against team members that go on jury duty will not be tolerated.
Adding a sentence or two about this in your policy reassures anyone that might be concerned about taking jury service for fear of losing their job down the line, or being passed over for projects or promotions.
Communicate what will happen during the employee’s time off
Let employees know that their role will be covered or projects will be paused until they return. This may differ from team to team or role to role, so you may have to make this section quite general.
Ensure that your team knows that deadlines will be extended if cover won’t be provided to reduce the likelihood of stress on their return to work. It may also be useful to ask your team member to write a handover like you would if they were going on annual leave.
Define the procedure if your employee is released from jury service
While many people are excited at the thought of doing jury service, it’s often quite boring and there can be lots of waiting around. Sometimes jurors will turn up to the court only to be told they’re not required that day, and in that case, they can come into work instead.
But consider what you would like your team members to do if they’ve been released early, but have been on a case in the morning. Are they allowed the rest of the day off if the case was emotionally draining or challenging? Whatever you decide, make sure your policy is clear.
Offer support for your employees that have been jurors
Long or difficult trials, for example murder trials, can have a serious effect on a person’s mental health. Remind staff to lean on your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for counselling or other wellbeing support if they have been affected by anything during the case. If you don’t have an EAP, you should consider putting one in place to help with your team’s general health and wellbeing at work, even outside of jury service.
If your team member has been on a particularly long case, consider offering one-to-one catch-ups with their line manager to help bring them up to speed with the work they’ve missed to help them feel settled more quickly.
Whatever you decide to include in your jury service policy, make sure you understand the law and you support your employees with their application for their loss of earnings allowance, returning to work after taking part in jury duty, and accessing mental health help if required.