Jury service is a trying time. And not always just for the accused. A juror may find it an unusual and difficult situation. And if they’re employed, what about the knock-on effects on their boss and the business?
Some people will come up with all manner of excuses to get out of jury duty. Here, attorneys in America recount a few of their favourite excuses for avoiding jury service. These include “I have a weak bladder”, “I don’t believe in the law”, and even a potential juror saying that the attorney had picked her up in a bar five years previously! They were all excused – as was the person who walked in holding a book published by the defence attorney which repeatedly criticised prosecutors.
That’s all before the trial begins. Depending on the crime, time in court could be harrowing, draining, or just plain tedious. You can’t forget Homer Simpson’s jury duty, in which he took to wearing a pair of glasses with fake eyes to allow him to sleep through proceedings.
Jury service advice for employers
So what about for you the employer? 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 70 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?
In normal circumstances, you 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. It is up to you to decide based on the finances and culture of your business. Whatever you choose to do, be sure to take a consistent approach if the situation arises more than once.
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.
A hybrid approach is to let your employee claim loss of earnings from the court and then top that up to their full pay.
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.
This blog was submitted to Seaham Business Park by Alison Schreiber, who runs The HR Dept Durham and Darlington. Alison works with a number of businesses across East Durham, offering HR advice and guidance to businesses and individuals. For more info, visit HR Dept Durham and Darlington or call Alison on 01325 526036 or 07535 853226.