An employer’s guide to jury service

Jury service is a public duty, but what are the implications for employers?

Groups of 15 ordinary women and men are selected at random to uphold justice in their local community. Jury service is a public duty that they are obliged to perform and unless someone is disqualified, has the right to be excused or has a valid reason for discretionary excusal, then they must serve. All jurors are selected at random from the electoral register and everyone from the age of 18 to 70 may be selected even if they are not eligible to serve on a Jury.

The chance of being called for jury service in Scotland, as in receiving a citation for jury service, is roughly 95% across the 53 years of typical eligibility. Although many people will receive a letter asking them to serve on a jury, far fewer will actually be selected to sit on the jurors’ benches.

About 30 men and women will be invited to court and 15 will be selected to be part of a jury.
In fact, the chance of actually serving on a Scottish jury is about 30% and the probability of being asked to be part of a jury more than once is about 40%.

Some people never get called whilst others get called more than once. But what are the implications for employers if an employee is called?

Key points
• Employers must allow an employee time off for jury service, although employers can ask for a delay if allowing you time off will harm the business, but can only delay once in a 12 month period.
• Jury service in most cases is an average of ten working days but may be longer or shorter depending on the case.
• There is no legal obligation for an employer to pay an employee while on jury service as the court will pay certain costs.
• Anyone on the electoral register aged between 18-70 may be selected, subject to certain exceptions outlined below.

Employees should tell their employer as soon as possible that they have been summoned, when they will need time off and if possible how much. If they are not needed at court they should return to work unless something different has been agreed beforehand. Courts can pay for loss of earnings, travel costs and a subsistence rate during jury service. This is subject to certain limits so an employee won’t necessarily recover all their losses.

The law gives employees the right to time off and not to be dismissed or treated be subjected to detrimental treatment because they serve on a jury. They also have the right not to be selected for redundancy, where the reason is connected to their jury service. Employees can also bring a claim for unfair dismissal in relation to jury service by making a complaint to an employment tribunal if they are dismissed or suffer detriment for taking time off for jury service.

As an employer, here are some of the key questions you might have.

Who is not eligible for jury service?
Any UK resident aged between 18 and 70 years of age, who is registered on the electoral roll, could be called for jury service. All jurors are selected at random by computer from the electoral register.

Those who are not eligible for jury service include:
• Anyone currently detained, or who is liable to being detained, under the Mental Health Act 1983
• Those who lack the mental capacity to be a juror
• Individuals who are currently on bail, or an active defendant in criminal proceedings
• Anyone who has been in prison, or charged with a crime in the last ten years

There are different rules in Scotland and England regarding exempt occupations. For example a solicitor or judge I Scotland is exempt, whereas in England they are not. Scottish Courts Service produce a very helpful guide on eligibility on their website at www.scotcourts.gov.uk

Due to the random selection criteria, some people may be called to serve as juror multiple times during their life, whilst others will not be called at all.

How long does jury service usually last for?
An average juror will serve on a criminal case for between three to 10 days. However, more serious crimes, such as murder or complex fraud cases, may take much longer.

If a judge has been briefed that a case is likely to last much longer than stated, he or she will raise this with all potential jurors from the offset and allow them the opportunity to apply to be excused from serving, or for their service to be deferred to a later date.

Can someone apply for exemption or ask to be deferred?
Anyone can apply for exemption from their jury service or for it to be deferred. You can commonly only delay jury service once, and you must provide alternative dates for your availability within the next 12 months.

The main grounds for deferral include:
• Having a pre-booked holiday
• Needing to attended hospital for a scheduled operation
• You need to attend an exam, or are a teacher and it is the exam period
• You are seriously unwell
• You are pregnant and due to give birth

Rarely, an individual can be completely excused from jury service (with the option of being called again at some point in the future). This normally only applies to those who have served as a juror, or has attended to serve, within the last two years. It is a criminal offence to refuse your jury service and non-attendance can be followed with a fine of up to £1,000.

When should employers be notified of a jury summons?
An individual normally receives a summons for jury service at least five weeks prior to the date of the trial commencing, which they must legally respond to within seven working days.

As an employer, you should make clear that any employee needing to attend jury service must notify you of their obligations, the date that the trial starts, and the estimated duration as soon as possible.

Do I legally need to give my employee time off?
Completing jury service is a legal requirement, and you must not subject any of your employees to detrimental treatment for having to do so. You must also allow them to be away from your business for the full amount of time stipulated by the court. Employees also retain the right not to be selected for redundancy, if the reason for selection is in any way connected to their jury service.

However, if you really feel that you cannot spare an employee due to the demands of business or a lack of qualified personnel, you could ask them to apply to defer their jury service. If you choose to ask this, you will also be required to write a letter stating how their absence could seriously harm your business. You should note that they can only delay jury service once in any 12 month period, and that you must also supply dates of preferable dates when the employee will be available.

What happens to salary payment?
Legally, you are not required to pay an employee whilst they serve on a jury. However, many companies do so as a gesture of goodwill. As stated previously, the likelihood of being called to jury service during your working life could be as little as 40%, so many company policies reflect this and offer full pay on the assumption that very few employees are likely to be absent for this reason.

If you decide that you really cannot pay employees whilst on jury service, they can instead apply to claim for ‘loss of earnings’ from the court in question. A certificate demonstrating this must be filled out and handed in to the court by the employee.

What expenses can be claimed?
Anyone serving on a jury, regardless of whether they are being paid by their employer or not, can claim for expenses from the court. The areas an individual can usually claim for are travel and parking, food and drink, and a contribution towards ‘loss of earnings’ and/or other expenses.

Rates of pay for loss of earnings, and other expenses aside from travel and food and drink, depend on the length of time and the hours required for the trial itself.

What are the Tax and National Insurance implications?
This will depend entirely on your remuneration policy for employees conducting jury service.

• If you choose not to pay them at all during a period of jury service, nothing will need to be added to their payroll record or P11 form.
• If you pay an employee in full as normal, you also will not need to make any changes. You will continue to pay National Insurance and tax in the normal manner.
• If you contribute to, or top up a ‘loss of earnings allowance,’ you will need to calculate PAYE tax and National Insurance contributions, based on the amount you choose to provide.

If you decide not to pay your employee, and they then apply for a loss of earnings allowance, the court will ask you as their employer to state how much money will miss out on due to undertaking jury service. You will not have to take the allowance itself into account when calculating PAYE and NICs, as it effectively counts as compensation, and not remuneration for a job.

You may then decide to ‘top up’ your employee’s allowance, so as to ensure they take home their full salary for their period serving on a jury. This would then require you to calculate PAYE and NICs on the amount that you decide to contribute.

OUR ADVICE
It is unlikely that you will have to regularly deal with managing staff who are undertaking jury service, but it is still wise to have a clear policy in place when it does arise.

Here is our advice for successfully dealing with staff on jury service.
• Ensure that you fully understand all of the legal rules and requirements surrounding UK jury service.
• You must make sure that you act fairly and appropriately and do not penalise any employee who has been called to serve unfairly.
• Communicate your business policy effectively to staff. Most employee’s will understand that their jury service could have an unwanted negative effect on a business, but you should make clear that employees know they are fully protected against both detrimental treatment and job loss whilst they are away from the business.
• Plan for business absences due to jury service. Whilst it is likely to be an infrequent occurrence, having a rough plan in place to deal with jury service absences makes both good business and financial sense. Stay informed about temp agencies that might be able to help should you need extra staff to cover.
• Implement a clear jury service policy. Make sure that you have considered the key areas that could be affected by an employee on jury service, these could include providing cover arrangements, rates of pay (if any), time periods of informing line managers and so on.
• Recognise that you could be summoned yourself! So set a good positive example to your employees and plan for your own jury service period (even if it never occurs).