As an employer you will be used to your employees taking time off work for annual leave and sickness, however, how do you handle requests for employees if they are summoned to attend jury service?
Firstly you can’t refuse an employee time off work if they have been called for jury service as they are required to attend by the Juries Act 1974. Declining an employee’s request for time off work would place you in contempt of court, but always make sure you have requested proof that they have been selected.
However, an employee can ask the court to be excused, or have their participation postponed if their absence from the business is likely to cause substantial damage. Think about having a frank conversation with your employee explaining your concerns for the business, but do not place any undue pressure on them and you cannot apply for a deferral on their behalf. Remember that your employee is not obligated to act in accordance with your concerns, but if they do then you may write a letter in support of their application.
Obviously, this can be very frustrating, but it is imperative that you do not penalise your employee for attending jury service. Whilst you may be thinking of deducting the time from their annual leave allocation, this is won’t sit well with your employee and may be seen as unlawful as choosing to dismiss an employee for attending, or planning to attend, will be unfair. This course of action also means they would be able to bring a claim against you in front of an employment tribunal without the need for two years’ service.
There is no statutory entitlement for employees to be paid their wages if they are absent due to jury service, as employees are able to claim an allowance for loss of earnings from the court you can decide how much to pay them, or whether to pay them at all. Whilst making your decision, it may be good to know there is nothing in place for you to claim financial compensation from the court for loss or earnings.
One final point is that while jury service can be seen as an inconvenience for your business, keep in mind that most cases usually last only up to two weeks and are often shorter if an early decision is reached. Always consider how taking a negative approach to this situation is unlikely to be good for employee relations and make sure you have a good plan in place for unforeseen absences.
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