Jury service is a civic duty that the vast majority of people are eligible to perform from the age of 18. Receiving that pink jury summons through the post may be exciting for some, but its arrival can be a real pain in the proverbial for small business owners.
If you or one of your employees has received a jury summons, or you’re curious about the potential impact of either situation arising in the future, this guide will give you an idea of your personal options and responsibilities as an employer.
Who is eligible for jury service?
In accordance with the Juries Act 1974, a person is eligible for jury service if they:
- are between 18 and 76 years old on the date that they start jury service
- are listed on the electoral roll (i.e. they are registered to vote)
- have lived in the UK, Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man for a period of at least five years since they were 13 years old
- are not disqualified from jury service
Jurors are chosen completely at random from the electoral register, which includes more than 45 million people.
This means that some people are never called upon to play their part in the justice system, whilst others may receive multiple jury summons throughout their lifetime. It’s simply the luck (or misfortune) of the draw.
If you live in England and Wales, the chance of being called for jury service is actually pretty slim at 35%. Whereas, in Scotland, you have a 95% chance of receiving a jury summons.
Who is exempt from jury service?
A person is automatically disqualified from serving on a jury if they:
- are on bail
- have been to prison or been subject to a community order within the last 10 years
- have ever been sentenced to imprisonment, or a period of detention, of at least five years
- are in hospital or under a community treatment order for mental health treatment
- do not have the mental capacity
Previously, certain individuals were ineligible for jury service in England & Wales on account of their profession – such as judges, solicitors, and police officers – but this exclusion was abolished by the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Request to defer or be excused from jury duty
If you receive a summons and believe that you are unable to participate on the required dates, you can ask the court to defer your period of jury service for up to 12 months. In certain circumstances, you can ask to be excused.
Unfortunately, it is not something you can simply ignore. You may receive a fine of up to £1,000 if you fail to respond to a jury summons, lie to avoid having to attend, or do not turn up for jury service.
Deferring the date of your jury service
Some of the reasons for which the court is most likely to approve a deferral request include:
- you’re scheduled to have an operation
- you are sitting an exam
- you have a holiday booked
- your employer will not grant you time off work
- you are a new parent
- attendance would cause unusual hardship
You may only defer your jury service once. To do so, you must reply to your jury summons within seven days, providing your reasons alongside evidence to support your request (e.g. a letter from your doctor, or proof of your holiday booking).
Furthermore, you must provide three possible alternative dates that you will be available to serve on a jury in the next 12 months.
You can reply to the jury summons online, or complete and return the form by post.
Being excused from jury service
If you feel that you are unable to serve as a juror at any point during the next 12 months, you can ask to be excused. The courts will only grant such requests in exceptional circumstances, for example:
- you have a serious illness or disability that prevents you from doing jury service
- you’re a full-time carer of someone who has an illness or disability
- you are a new parent and won’t be able to serve at any other time in the next 12 months
Additionally, you can ask to be excused if you are over the age of 70 or you have served on a jury within the last two years.
To make such a request, you need to reply to the jury summons within seven days of receiving it and explain your reasons. You may also have to provide evidence to support your request.
The courts endeavour to be accommodating of any such requests, considering each one on its individual merits. Typically, the Summoning Bureau will respond with their decision within 10 working days.
When a business owner or company director is called for jury duty
Running your own business as a self-employed person or limited company director does not automatically excuse you from jury service. However, if attendance is likely to cause ‘unusual hardship’ for your business, the court may accept your request to defer or be excused.
It is important to outline all of the implications in detail when responding to the jury summons, for example:
- that attendance would jeopardise your livelihood
- the negative impact on service delivery if you were to attend court
- that you have specialist skills or knowledge that cannot be covered by anyone else
- whether any of your employees or business partners are on leave during the court dates, making it difficult or impossible to cover your own absence
- that you have a contractual obligation to meet a deadline for a client and delaying the work is not an option
- you have booked and paid for a business trip or training course
- your absence from work would prevent you from accepting an important contract or securing a valuable new client
If your reasoning is on account of client contracts or deadlines, it would be wise to include letters from your existing or prospective clients stating that your work is urgent and/or essential.
Summoning officers will not hesitate to refuse a request if you do not have ‘good reason’, so it is important to provide as much information as possible.
However, they are expected to consider all applications for deferment or excusal carefully, sympathetically, and with particular regard to the individual circumstances of each request.
This includes small business owners whose absence from work would cause significant hardship to themselves or their clients.
If your request is rejected
If the court rejects your deferral or excusal request, you can appeal by writing to the Jury Central Summoning Bureau. You should include the following information in your letter or email:
- why you do not agree with their decision
- your juror number (stated on your summons letter)
- your name, address, and date of birth
- the name and address of the court to which you have been summoned
- the dates of your jury service
Head of the Jury Central Summoning Bureau
HM Courts and Tribunals Service
Jury Central Summoning Bureau
If you have any questions about jury service, you can contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau:
Telephone: 0300 456 1024
Welsh language telephone: 0300 303 5173
Opening hours are Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm, and Friday 9am to 3pm.
Claiming loss of earnings and expenses
The courts do ‘compensate’ jurors for loss of earnings and certain expenses, but the amounts you can claim are nominal and wholly insufficient for most people.
For every day that you attend court, you can usually claim up to:
- £32.47 if you spend four hours or less in court
- £64.95 if you spend more than four hours in court
- £129.91 if your jury service lasts longer than 10 working days and you spend more than four hours in court
- £64.95 if your jury service lasts longer than 10 working days and you spend four hours or less in court
- £5.71 for food and drink, rising to £12.17 if you are in court for more than 10 hours
- the cost of travel to and from the court
Ordinarily, you will claim for expenses at the end of your jury service but no more than 12 months after it started. You will usually be paid within 10 working days after submitting the claim form.
If you are facing financial hardship or the trial is likely to last a long time, the court may agree to pay your expenses during the trial.
To claim for earnings lost as a company director or self-employed individual, you must complete a self-employed loss of earnings form.
You will need to include evidence of lost earnings, such as your most recent Self Assessment tax return, a letter from your accountant, or a letter from a client whose work you had to turn down on account of jury service.
Claiming travel and parking costs
The amount you can claim depends on your method of travel to and from the court.
|Method of travel
|How much you can claim
|Bus or underground
|Cost of the bus ticket
|Cost of the ticket (standard class return fare)
|9.6p per mile
|31.4p per mile
|31.4p per mile – check if the court will pay for parking
|Car – for one other juror as a passenger
|4.2p per mile
|Car – for each additional passenger
|3.2p per mile
|The fare – seek permission from the court before using a taxi
When an employee is called for jury service
As an employer, you are legally required to allow employees time off from work if they are called upon to attend jury service. If you refuse to allow an employee to attend and do not have a good reason for doing so, you could be held in contempt of court.
However, you can ask them to request a deferment if their absence from work on the specified dates is likely to have a detrimental impact on your business. But remember that they can only ask to defer once – and they will have to provide alternative dates of availability in the next 12 months.
You are under no obligation to pay an employee during their time at court. Nevertheless, many companies choose to do so as a gesture of goodwill, or to make up the difference between the court allowance and their usual earnings.
Understandably, paying absent employees is not always possible for small business owners. If you decide not to pay them, you will need to complete a loss of earnings form for your employee to take to the court on their first day of jury service.
You should state their net earnings for each day that they work over a typical two-week period, and whether or not they can return to work if they are not required at court.
You cannot discriminate against an employee for attending jury service. If you penalise or dismiss anyone for this reason, they could take you to an employment tribunal.
To ensure employees are fully informed of their rights and entitlements, we would advise seeking legal advice regarding jury service, and clearly setting out your employees’ legal and financial obligations in a staff handbook.
Protect your business income with insurance
According to new research from Churchill Home Insurance, one in five workers in the UK would struggle to cope financially if they were to lose two weeks of income on account of serving on a jury.
Whilst jury duty normally lasts around 10 working days, bear in mind that some court cases can go on for months, which would cause even greater financial hardship.
Could you continue to keep your business afloat and pay your household bills if this were to happen? Could you afford to pay an employee and/or a temporary replacement during their time on a jury?
As a business owner, insurance cover could help to mitigate the financial cost of you or an employee being called upon to serve as a juror. Many insurers include or offer jury service loss of income cover with their home insurance, income protection, and legal expenses policies.
It would be worth getting in touch with your current insurer(s) to ask whether this type of cover is included in any of your existing policies, or available as an add-on.
Thanks for reading
Whilst jury service is a vitally important civic duty, it can be a huge inconvenience and financial strain for small business owners, be they self-employed or company directors.
Requesting deferment or excusal are two options, and the courts are generally sympathetic to those whose personal finances and/or businesses would suffer significant hardship.
However, there is no guarantee that any such requests would be accepted. For this reason, we strongly recommend taking out insurance to cover loss of income as a result of jury service.
We hope that this post has been informative and given you a better idea of your personal options and employer responsibilities. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.