Recently, a member of our team was summoned to jury service and after discussions in the office, it got us thinking about whether other employees are aware of what to do if they receive a summons and whether employers know what they need to be mindful of?

What are my rights as an employee?

As an employee, there is no direct right to take time off work if you are called for jury service, however employees are protected from being subject to detriment or dismissal as a result of being summoned for jury service, or being absent from work for jury service. This means that your employer must allow you to take time off. You should notify your employer as soon as possible, provide your jury service dates and where possible, how much time you will need off.

If you have good reason, you may apply for a deferral or an exemption. For example, if you have a holiday booked which clashes with your service dates, or you are a new parent and would not be able to serve at any other time in the next 12 months. However, you can only ask to change the date once.

When do I need to let my employer know that I have been summoned for jury service? 

Ideally, employees should give as much notice as possible to their employer, so that they have time to plan ahead. Employers should instruct employees to tell their line managers as soon as possible if they are summoned for jury service to allow time to plan for the absence.

How long does jury service take?

In general, jury service covers 10 working days, however it can be longer or shorter depending on the case. The length of the trial is not usually clear until it has commenced, which can make it difficult for smaller employers to plan for employees being absent from the business.

 Will I be paid my salary as usual?

Employers are not required to pay employees during jury service absence, and any payment will depend on the employer’s policy.

An employee can claim travel and food expenses along with an  allowance for loss of earnings from the court, this allowance varies with time spent at court, up to a maximum of £64.95 if the individual is required to be present for more than 4 hours. As these expenses are very minimal, some employers choose to continue paying  employees their normal salary throughout jury service. If an employer does not pay normal salary throughout jury service, they may decide to top up the expenses claimed from the court to the employees usual salary, to ensure that staff are not financially punished for attending jury service.

If I am not required to attend court at any point during my service, do I have to go back to work? 

 Ultimately, your employer will need to make the decision and we suggest that this is discussed prior to your jury service. If during your jury service, you are only needed for a half day, you should notify your manager or supervisor to confirm whether you are required to attend work.  

For employers

Can I request my employee not to attend jury service? 

 If the absence of your employee is likely to cause a substantial inconvenience to your business, you may ask them to try to defer jury service. You will need to provide a letter setting out why the employee attending jury service could cause harm to the business, and such a request must be sent by the employee themselves to the court.  Employees can only delay jury service once in each 12-month period, therefore we suggest working with the employee to collate dates to avoid to ensure any deferred date is convenient to the business.  

Should we include jury service in our staff handbook? 

 We recommend that employers  have a clear policy in respect of entitlements to paid leave in their Employee Handbook, including entitlements during jury service. This policy should provide clarity on who to inform of the summons, any arrangements required in their absence and information in relation to payment. Having this policy in place should allow managers to implement the company’s policy consistently.

Our team of employment solicitors at Teacher Stern can advise on any HR and employment law questions, including drafting effective employment policies to cover time off entitlements.