Employment law

Do I have to do jury service?

Do I have to do jury service? Image of Lady Justice

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    Jury service is often seen as a chore rather than evidence of a well-functioning democracy, and it’s easy to see why. Aside from having to re-arrange your personal schedule for the next few weeks, you’ll have to take time off work – this can mean a loss of income and possibly even clients, which is especially scary for the self-employed.

    Given these concerns, you’d be forgiven for asking whether you have to do jury duty at all. The simple answer, and the one you probably weren’t hoping to hear, is yes – jury service is a public duty, and you must serve unless disqualified or excused by the judge.

    The good news is that the courts know that jury service can create problems for you in your professional and personal lives. Provisions and support are in place to help you, whether you’re self-employed or an employee.

    Fancy a change? Go self-employed

    How are jurors chosen?

    All jurors are selected at random by a computer, using the electoral register. Everyone on the electoral register aged 18 and over may be selected, even if they’re not eligible to serve on a jury. Some people never get called, others get called more than once – it’s all down to the luck of the draw.

    On what conditions can I defer or be excused from jury duty?

    You can attempt to delay or defer your jury service, but only if:

    • You’ve already booked a holiday
    • You’re having an operation
    • Your employer won’t give you time off.

    You can only defer jury service once – if you’re called again, you’ll have to serve, no questions asked.You can be disqualified or excused by the judge presiding over the case if either the defending or prosecuting councils argue that you’re an unfair juror, or if you can provide the judge with reason to be excused. Ultimately, however, it’ll be the judge’s decision.

    What expenses can I claim for jury service?

    Typically, you can claim for:

    • Travel and parking costs
    • Food and drink
    • A contribution towards your loss of earnings and other expenses.

    There is, of course, a limit on how much you can claim per day, but being able to claim back some of the money you’ve lost from taking time away from work is an enormous help. You can see more information on these limits on the website.

    The court will also arrange accommodation for you if you’re required to stay overnight.

    Some insurance policies will also allow you to make a claim for:

    • Loss of earnings while on jury duty
    • Cancelling or rearranging a holiday
    • The cost to your business/you/your employees performing jury duty.

    What happens if I don’t answer my jury summons?

    You can be fined up to £1,000 for failing to return your jury summons or for failing to turn up for jury duty.

    Who doesn’t need to perform jury duty?

    If you’ve been to prison within the last 10 years, you’re exempt from being called to serve on a jury. You can also be excused if you suffer/have suffered from a serious mental illness.

    Are there any other protections in place?

    An employee can make a complaint to an employment tribunal if their employer mistreats them over the jury summons (e.g they’re dismissed or suffer detriment for taking time off for jury service). Note, though, that the self-employed can’t make this claim.

    If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to us at The HR Kiosk (click here) - a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses - you can retain us for as much time as you need.

    Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.