Where an employer considers that having a particular employee go on jury service would injure its business, can it approach the court directly to request a deferral?
No, an employee may apply to be excused from jury service, or for the jury service to be deferred, but the employer cannot approach the court directly. An excusal will usually be given only in extreme circumstances, either where the employee has attended jury service within the last two years, or where it would be unreasonable to require the employee to serve at any time within the next 12 months. An application for deferral is much more likely to be granted, in which case the employee will be issued a new summons for jury service to take place during the next 12 months, with no option for another deferral.
The employer cannot apply for excusal or deferral on the employee's behalf, but can write a letter in support of the employee's application, to be submitted with the application and any other relevant evidence. Such a letter can carry some weight, although jury officers may nevertheless decide not to grant the request.
Therefore, it is important for employers to prepare contingency plans for the likelihood that members of their staff will be called on for jury service, and to make plans to cover their absence. However, as jurors are normally required to serve for only 10 days, and courts usually give at least six to eight weeks' notice of jury duty, in most cases planning for absence on jury service ought to be no more onerous than arranging cover for an employee who is taking a period of annual leave.