Jury service can cause problems in both an employers and employees working life, especially if a senior or key member of staff is called up at an inopportune time. It’s difficult to predict how long a case can last, as this can be dependent on the complexity of the case, but typically the civic duty lasts around ten days – two working weeks.
Unfortunately there is very little you can as an employer (or an employee) to avoid jury service outright. Unless an employee has previously been to prison or can prove they suffer from mental illness, it is essentially futile to attempt to avoid this duty outright.
A deferral however can be granted in some cases if employee cites “work commitments” in an application for a deferral. A referral will only be granted if “valid business reasons” which will cause unusual hardship can be proven, for example a small business that would be ‘disproportionately affected by the loss of an employee.’
An employer may write a letter to support the employee’s application for deferral. This will need to be included with their application and must list the specific problems jury service will cause the business, e.g. loss of the employee’s involvement in a time-critical or key business project. If you’re a smaller employer with limited staffing resources, always mention this fact.
If the application is granted, the employee will receive a letter confirming the deferral along with a new date to attend for jury service. The maximum period of deferral is twelve months.
Contempt of Court and Legal Issues
While there is no express legal right that grants an employee time off for jury service, they do have the right not to suffer a detriment. A dismissal for having to attend jury service would definately be viewed as a unfair dismissal, the only slight exception being if an employee failed to apply for a whose absence would cause “substantial damage” to your business.
If you as an employer service point-blank, you are extremely likely to be held in contempt of court, so understanding is likely to be key when dealing with jury service.