Navigating jury service (UK): A guide for employers and employees

According to the BBC, adults in England and Wales have a 35% chance of being called up for jury service during their lifetime. If you’re an employer, that means it’s quite likely that it will happen to one of your employees at one time or another — and it’s important to be prepared. 

In this article, we’ll share everything that both employers and employees need to know about jury duty, including who’s eligible, how it works and how you’ll be paid if you’re called up.

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What is jury service? 

Jury service is when members of the public are randomly selected to sit on a jury in a court case. Each jury is made up of 12 jurors, who are tasked with deciding whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty in a criminal trial. 

How long does jury service last? 

Jury service usually lasts for 10 working days (two weeks), but it can be longer.  

Who is eligible for jury service in the UK?

Most people who are on the electoral register and aged between 18–70 can be called up for jury service. However, there are some people who are not eligible to serve, including: 

  • People who are currently on bail in a criminal proceeding 

  • People who have previously been sentenced to prison for five years or more

  • People who have been in prison within the last 10 years 

For most employers, that means that the majority of your workforce is probably eligible for jury service. 

The jury selection process

Here’s what will happen if you (or your employee) get called up for jury duty. 

Receiving a jury summons 

If you’re called to be a juror, you’ll receive a letter in the post telling you when you’re required to attend court. 

Jurors typically get about 10 days’ notice to make arrangements to be at court. As an employer, you should encourage your employees to let you know as soon as possible if they receive a jury summons so that you have enough time to prepare for their absence. 

Responding to the summons 

The jury summons letter comes with a form entitled ‘Reply to the Jury summons’. You’ll need to either fill out this form and send it back by post or reply to your summons online. You must reply to a jury summons within 10 days of receiving it. 

Normally, you have to accept a jury summons if you receive one. However, you might be able to delay your jury duty for up to a year in certain circumstances. You can request to change the date of your jury duty to another date in the next 12 months if: 

  • You’re having an operation 

  • You’re sitting an exam 

  • You have a holiday booked 

  • You’re a new parent

You can also request to have your jury duty delayed if your employer won’t give you the time off work to attend court — we’ll discuss this in more detail below. Whatever the circumstances, you can only change the date of your jury service once. You’ll also need to tell the court when you’ll be available to serve on a jury. 

Jury exemptions 

In some cases, you may be able to get an exemption from jury duty. For example, you may not have to complete your jury service if: 

  • You have a serious illness or disability that would prevent you from doing it

  • You’re a full-time carer for someone with a serious illness or disability

  • You’re a new parent and won’t be able to serve in the next 12 months 

Employer obligations and employee rights 

When a person is called up for jury duty, they’re expected to make every effort to attend court — even if that means missing work. Here is some information about employee rights (and employer obligations) around jury duty. 

Time off for jury service 

In the UK, employers can’t prevent their employees from taking time off to serve on a jury if they receive a summons. However, if you think your employee’s absence would seriously impact your business, you can ask them to delay their jury service. 

To do this, you’ll need to provide a letter explaining how their absence would impact your business. The court only accepts correspondence from the potential jurors themselves, so they’ll need to send it along with their ‘Reply to the Jury summons’ form. 

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Compensation and expenses

When an employee is on jury duty, you don’t have to pay them, although many employers choose to do so as a gesture of goodwill. If you don’t want to continue paying the employee (or can’t afford to), they can file a claim for loss of earnings with the court. The allowance they’ll receive is: 

  • £64.95 per day if they spent more than four hours in court 

  • £32.47 if they spend four hours or more in court 

Jurors also receive an allowance of £5.71 per day for food and drink and can claim travel expenses to and from court. Some employers choose to top up their employees’ loss of earnings allowance to their full salary (or another amount). 

Job security and discrimination 

It’s illegal to dismiss an employee for going on jury duty or to discriminate against them in any way. If you do, your employee could file a claim for unfair dismissal or take you to an employment tribunal.

Balancing work and jury duty

Being called up for jury service usually means you have to miss work for at least two weeks. And this extended absence can be stressful for both you and your employer. Here are things that both employers and employees can do to make sure that jury service doesn’t have too much of an impact at work. 

For employers

While jurors are generally expected to be available from 10am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, jury duty often involves some downtime. For example, a juror may arrive at court to be told that they’re not needed that day. On other days, they may only be needed for a few hours. 

As an employer, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll ask your employees to come into work on days when they’re not required to be at court. Keep in mind that jury duty can sometimes be upsetting or distressing — so it could be a good idea to give your employees the day off anyway. 

While the employee is away, you’ll need to either divide their work among your other employees or hire a temporary replacement. You could also pause any major projects that the employee is working on, and consider pushing back any deadlines to avoid causing your employee stress. 

For employees

If you’re called for jury service, remember to set an out-of-office email reply so that your colleagues know that you’re not at work. 

If you’re not expected to work during your downtime while on jury duty, you might still want to catch up with your manager or colleagues so they can fill you in on the work that’s been done while you’ve been away. 

However, it’s important to try and avoid getting stressed about the work that you’re missing, since jury duty alone can be emotionally taxing. 

When employees are excused or finished with jury service 

After their jury duty is over, your employee will return to work as normal. As an employer, it’s a good idea to organise a one-on-one catch-up between the employee and their manager so they can be filled in on what’s happened in their absence. 

Tax considerations

If an employee wasn’t paid during their jury service, they may have built up unused Personal Allowance. If this is the case, your payroll software will work out if they are entitled to a tax refund or if they’ll pay less tax on their next payslip. 

Frequently asked questions about jury duty in the UK 

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about jury duty. 

Can I delay jury service?

You can ask to delay jury service once in each 12-month period. However, you need to have a valid reason, like being a new parent or having commitments like a holiday or exam. Your employer can also ask you to delay your jury service if they provide you with a letter explaining how your absence would seriously impact their business. 

What if I become sick during jury service?

If you become ill and can’t complete your jury service, you should let the court know as soon as possible. If the proceedings haven’t started yet, you may be able to delay your jury service or get an exemption. You may need to provide a doctor’s note as evidence.   

How are self-employed individuals affected?

Self-employed people can claim an allowance for loss of income while they’re on jury duty. Like all jurors, they’re also entitled to an allowance for food and drink and the cost of travel to and from court. 

Building a policy to successfully navigate jury duty

If one of your employees is called up for jury duty, they’ll likely be away from work for at least two weeks — and you probably won’t get much notice. That’s why it’s a good idea to put together a clear jury duty policy before you’re caught out by an unexpected jury summons. 

Your jury duty policy should include: 

  • Whether you’ll continue to pay employees who are on jury duty

  • Whether you’ll top up their loss of earnings allowance if you’re not paying their full salary 

  • Your expectations for employees to come to work (or not) if they’re not needed in court for the full day 

  • The arrangements you’ll put in place to cover the employee’s responsibilities during their absence

Above all, you should reassure your employees that you understand jury duty is a civic duty, and that their taking the time off to serve won’t impact their career prospects. 

Additional resources

Check out these official resources to learn more about jury service: 

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