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Employee Jury Service

Wednesday July 2019

My client has been informed by an employee that they have been summoned to attend jury service.  What are the rules around this? 

The chances are that a lot of smaller employers may be less familiar with handling requests for time off to attend jury service. However, it is important that your client has an understanding of their obligations in this scenario.

Your client should understand that they can’t refuse an employee time off work if they have been summoned for jury service, as they are required to attend under the Juries Act 1974. Whilst it would be reasonable to ask for proof that the employee has been selected, refusing to allow them the required amount of time off work would place your client in contempt of court.

Having said this, the employee is able to ask the court to be excused, or to have their participation deferred, if their absence is likely to cause substantial damage to your client’s business. Your client may hold a conversation with the employee to express any business concerns, however, they shouldn’t place any undue pressure on them and cannot apply for excusal of deferral on their behalf.

Your client should also note that there is no statutory entitlement to pay employees their normal wages whilst they are absent on jury service. Employees are able to claim an allowance for loss of earnings from the court, therefore your client can decide how much to pay them, or whether to pay them at all.

Despite their frustration, it vital that your client does not subject the employee to any form of detriment for attending jury service. Choosing to dismiss an employee for attending, or planning to attend, jury service will be automatically unfair. This means they will be able to bring a claim against you to an employment tribunal without the need for 2 years’ service.

Although it may be a rare occurrence, it could be wise for your client to introduce a jury service policy to outline their stance on the matter going forward. Having a policy will allow your client to manage the process more effectively in the future, reducing any potential distractions and ensuring a reliable process is in place to distribute any work duties accordingly.

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