Is an employer required to permit its employees to go on jury service?
An employer cannot refuse to allow an employee time off work if he or she has been summoned for jury service, as a juror is required to attend by the Juries Act 1974. A refusal to allow the employee the required amount of time off work would place the employer in contempt of court. An employee may, however, apply to the appropriate officer of the court to be excused from jury service or have the summons deferred, for example if his or her absence from work is likely to cause substantial injury to the business. 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.
Employees have the right not to be subjected to any form of detriment on the grounds that they have been summoned for jury service, or have taken time off work in order to attend jury service.
Where an employee is dismissed because he or she has been summoned for jury service, or has been absent from work to attend jury service, the dismissal will be automatically unfair and the employee can bring a claim regardless of the length of his or her service. The employer will have a defence to such a claim if it explained to the employee that his or her absence on jury service was likely to cause substantial injury to the employer's business but the employee unreasonably refused to make an application for excusal or deferral. However, even if the employer has a defence to an automatic unfair dismissal, an employee with sufficient service could still succeed in an ordinary unfair dismissal claim if the decision to dismiss was unreasonable in all the circumstances or the employer failed to follow a fair procedure.