Most employers have to deal with employees going off on jury service at some point, and here are some of the key questions we get asked by clients when a member of their team receives a summons.
Can I refuse to give an employee time off for jury service?
No you can’t. If an employee has been summoned for jury service they are legally required to attend, and preventing them from doing so would place them in contempt of court.
In addition, they are protected from being dismissed because of being called for jury service – such a dismissal would be automatically unfair and they would be entitled to bring a claim against you regardless of their length of service.
Therefore if granting the time off would present you with difficulties, you are best off exploring whether it is possible for the employee to seek a deferral/excusal from jury service.
A key member of staff has been called for jury service, which will cause my business a problem – can I write to the court and ask for it to be cancelled?
Your member of staff can ask for jury service to be deferred, or to be excused altogether, but you cannot write as the employer and ask for it. What you can do is write in support of your employee’s request, if the reason for the request relates to their employment.
What kind of reasons might enable an employee to be able to postpone/be excused from jury service?
If the proposed dates conflict with specific work commitments for the employee (for example a particularly busy time if the work is seasonal, or conflicts with a major event at work, or involves a time-critical project), then a court may agree a deferral to a less inconvenient time.
If the employee’s absence on jury service would cause the business “unusual hardship” then an excusal might be granted. For a small business this is most likely to be the case if it would prove extremely challenging or expensive to cover their work due to limited resources.
Do I have to pay a member of staff who is absent on jury service?
There is no requirement to pay employees who are on jury service. Compensation is available to those employees who suffer loss of earnings as a result of jury service, however this is capped and may not cover their full wages.
For this reason some employers decide to either pay in full, or to pay the difference between the allowance jurors can get from the court and their normal full salary, particularly as it is obviously not absence the employee chooses to take.
If you will not be paying your employee in full, they will need to present the relevant form to claim loss of earnings, and you will need to complete a section of this detailing how much the employee earns.
I know there’s a lot of hanging about on jury service, and jurors aren’t always required every day. Can I ask my employee to come into work on days he/she isn’t in court?
You can do this, however bear in mind that unless the court they are attending is near the workplace, it might not necessarily be realistic or worthwhile to do so. In addition, it can be easier to deal with absence if the employee is ‘properly’ absent rather than perhaps popping for half a day here or a day there for the usual two week period.
For some roles, doing some work at home might be an option, however bear in mind that if an employee becomes involved in a trial, this can require concentration, taking in a lot of information and can also (depending on the nature of the case involved) be emotionally taxing. In these circumstances not having to worry about work can be very helpful.
An employee going on jury service will be costly for my business as I’ll need to pay for an expensive temp to cover their work. Can I get compensation?
You can’t get compensation for your losses, no. You don’t have to pay the absent employee (although many employers choose to at least pay the appropriate amount to cover the difference between normal salary and the court allowance), but any costs involved in covering their work must be borne by the business.
If covering the employee will represent a real hardship for the business (more likely in a very small business), you can ask your employee to apply for a deferral/excusal from jury service, and can write in support of this application.
If you would like more guidance about employees taking time off for Jury Service do get in touch.