Trial by jury is one of the cornerstones of our legal system in order to ensure a fair hearing by one’s peers. In order to safeguard this, jury service cannot be easily avoided but those called to take part are protected against detrimental treatment.
Inconvenience or the fact that someone is working are insufficient reasons in and of themselves for being released from jury service. The purpose of the system is to get a cross section of society which wouldn’t happen if the only people who carried it out were those who were unemployed or who had free time.
An employer must allow an employee time off for jury service. If they don't then they risk being found in contempt of court. An employee has the right not to be treated unfairly because of their call-up, such as losing out on opportunities or being denied promotion.
An employee does not have the right to get paid by their employer whilst they are on jury service. However, someone on jury service can claim expenses for travel and food as well as for loss of earnings from the court. This is not as straightforward as a replacement salary and should be discussed with the court. There are limits on the amount that an individual can claim which are determined by the length of time spent each day on jury service and the length of time the jury service lasts for. Some employers may choose to pay their employees while they are on jury service, either paying full salary or topping up the allowance from the court.
If jury service will cause particular problems a request can be made for it to be deferred or for exclusion altogether. Deferment can only be requested once and for no more than 12 months from the original date. An individual wanting to be excluded from jury service altogether would have to write to the Jury Central Summoning Bureau setting out the reasons why. However, unless the individual has already served as a juror within the previous two years the call-up is likely simply to be deferred.
Jury service usually lasts for 10 days, but some trials take longer. Jurors are usually warned in advance if there is an expectation that a trial will last a long time.
An employee who was sacked because they had been called up for, or done, jury service would be viewed as having been unfairly dismissed. However, if their employer told them that their absence would have a serious effect on the business and they made no attempt to ask for their call-up to be deferred or to be excused then they could face a fair dismissal for failing to try to protect the company’s business interests.
Anyone who has been called up for jury service should let their employer know how long it’s anticipated they will need off and what arrangements need to be made for cover in their absence. The call-up letter should also be provided to the employer.
For any further information regarding the issues above, please call our Advice Service on 0844 892 2488.