Are magistrates entitled to time off work to carry out their public duties?

Yes. Magistrates are also known as "Justices of the Peace". Section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 requires employers to permit employees who are a Justice of the Peace to take time off during working hours for the purpose of performing any of their duties of office.

In practice, the main public duty for which a magistrate will be entitled to take time off is attendance at court. Magistrates must attend court for a minimum of 26 half days per year, but they can be required, or volunteer, to attend more frequently. The Magistrates' Association estimates that most magistrates are in court for the equivalent of 18 days per year. The amount of time off to which a magistrate is entitled is not unlimited; the Act provides that it is limited to whatever is reasonable in all the circumstances taking into account:

  • how much time off the magistrate requires to perform his or her duties;
  • how much time off the magistrate requires to perform the particular duty in question;
  • how much time off the employer has already permitted the magistrate to take to carry out public duties or trade union duties and activities;
  • the circumstances of the employer's business; and
  • the effect of the magistrate's absence on the running of the employer's business.