Nowadays, avoiding jury duty is not easy. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 reduced the list of those persons disqualified from being jurors and removed many of the reasons that had previously been accepted for the avoidance or deferral of service.
Surprisingly, there is no statutory provision requiring employers to allow staff time off work for jury service. The Juries Act 1974 obliges a person who has been summoned for jury service to perform the duty unless that person comes under the category of those excused service or has been specifically excused by the court. Therefore, an employer who refuses an employee time off for jury service could be fined for being in contempt of court.
The Employment Relations Act 2004 provides specific redress for employees who are dismissed or suffer other detriment as a result of taking time away from work for jury service. Refusing to allow an employee to return to work after jury service is automatically unfair dismissal and there is no qualifying period of employment which the employee has to serve for this protection to apply. However, this rule does not apply where:
- the absence of an employee on jury duty will have a serious adverse effect on the business;
- the employer brings this to the employee’s attention;
- the employer requests that the employee applies either to be excused from serving or to have their call-up deferred; and
- the employee unreasonably fails to do so.
Applications by individuals for deferrals on the basis of work commitments will be considered on an individual basis.
An employer is not required by law to pay an employee who is absent on jury service. Jurors are, however, entitled to claim for travel and subsistence and for loss of earnings.