Jury service and public duties: employers

Last updated: 27 December 2017

Employees can get time off work for certain public duties as well as their normal holiday entitlement. Employers can choose to pay them for this time, but they don't have to.

Who qualifies for time off

Employees must be allowed to take time off for jury service.

An employee can also get a 'reasonable' amount of time off if they're:

  • a justice of the peace
  • a local councillor
  • a school governor or a member of a school council / board in Scotland
  • a member of the managing or governing body of an educational establishment
  • a member of any statutory tribunal (like an employment tribunal)
  • a member of a health authority
  • a member of the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection agency
  • a member of the prison visiting committees
  • a member of Scottish Water or a Water Customer Consultation Panel
  • a trade union member (for trade union duties)

Who doesn't qualify for time off

Staff can't ask for time off work for public duties if they're:

  • agency workers
  • members of the police service or armed forces
  • employed on a fishing vessel or a gas or oil rig at sea
  • merchant seamen
  • civil servants, if their public duties are connected to political activities restricted under their terms of their employment

Reasonable time off

The amount of time off should be agreed between the employee and employer beforehand, based on:

  • how long the duties might take
  • the amount of time the employee has already had off for public duties
  • how the time off will affect the business

The employer can refuse a request for time off if they think it's unreasonable.

Employers can choose to pay staff for time taken off, but they don't have to.

Employees can raise a grievance if they feel that employers aren't allowing them to take enough time off for public duties.

Contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) if you have any questions about time off work for public duties.

Employees in the reserve forces

Employees in the Army Reserves or other reserve forces have certain protections under employment law if they're called up for service.

Employers of reservists also have particular rights and obligations in this situation - eg they may be able to claim financial assistance or apply for an exemption.

Jury service

Employers must allow an employee time off if they're called up to serve on a jury.

They aren't allowed to treat them unfavourably for going on jury service, and if they dismiss them they could be taken to an employment tribunal.

However, you an employer can ask the employee to try to delay their jury service if their absence would seriously harm the business.

The employee can only delay jury service once in a 12-month period, and must say on the jury summons when they'll be available.

Jury service usually lasts up to 10 days, but can be longer.

Paying staff on jury service

Employers don't have to pay staff while they're doing jury service, but many do.

If an employee is paid during duty service, their tax and National Insurance contributions will be worked out in the normal way.

If an employee isn't paid during duty service, they can claim a 'loss of earnings allowance' from the court.

The employer will get a Certificate of Loss of Earnings with their jury service letter. This must be filled out by the employer and given to the court.

Justice of the peace duty

Employers must, by law, allow an employee who is a justice of the peace reasonable time off work to carry out their duties.

Employees who are justices of the peace will have to be in court at least 13 days a year.

They'll get their justice of the peace rota well in advance, so employers will have plenty of time to plan and agree the time off.

Employers don't have to pay employees for their justice of the peace work, but many do.