What does it mean for your business?
You're starting an important project. The deadline is aggressive, it'll be a challenge to complete on time, but the team is confident. Then, out of the blue a critical member of the team hands you a letter: "Jury Summons".
This letter often raises a lot of questions for both employer and employee. Here are our top questions and answers for when the jury service calls.
We really need this person - can we get an exemption?
The most common course of action is to ask to defer jury service until a later date. When responding to the jury summons it is possible to provide 3 alternative dates that fall within the next 12 months. There needs to be a good reason for this, and you will need to provide a letter explaining why their absence will damage the business.
It is possible for an employee to be excused from jury service, but only under exceptional circumstances. For example, through serious illness or disability.
Do we need to pay the employee while on jury service?
You are not obligated to pay your employees while they are on jury service, however many employers do. You may decide to pay to a limited extent, for example, for the first 5 days service. You could also pay the difference between the court allowance and the employee's normal wage if higher.
The court allowance for daily expenses usually consists of:
- up to £64.95 for loss of earnings
- £5.71 for food and drink
- the cost of travel to and from court
If you opt not to pay your employee while on jury service, you will need to fill in a loss of earnings form.
Some businesses have insurance policies that cover losses caused by employee absence for jury service. This could include the cost of rearranged business trips. It is worth checking with your insurance provider to see if you have any cover.
Be aware of employee protections
While on jury service employees have some enhanced employment protection. Employees cannot be discriminated against for going on jury service which includes selection for redundancy. If an employee is dismissed because they have been summoned for jury service, the dismissal is automatically deemed as unfair regardless of their length of service.
Although an employer cannot refuse to allow an employee time off work (Juries Act 1974), it is possible to defer the service until a later date if there is a genuine business impact. There needs to be some cooperation between the employee and employer. You aren’t required to offer full pay, but this is often a worthwhile gesture.