When an employee gets summoned for jury duty, it can put added stress on the workplace with other staff having to take on extra work. As an employer, you’ll likely want to avoid the inconvenience of releasing an employee for jury duty, however, this may prove to be difficult.
Employers must comply with the legal responsibilities outlined when dealing with an employee who has been summoned for jury duty. Employers who don’t adhere to these responsibilities can face penalties of up to $50,000.
Can you refuse to release an employee for jury duty?
As an employer, you are required to release any employee for jury duty if they have been summoned. It is an offence to act prejudicial to an employee if they have been summoned for jury duty, including threatening their employment or wages.
If your business will face significant hardship with an employee at jury service, then you may be able to request for the employee to be excused. This will require an explanation of the impact jury service will have on your business. A request must be communicated before empanelment (when the jurors have been selected), and making a request does not guarantee that your employee will be excused.
What are the employee’s rights?
When your employee is away on jury duty, this cannot be counted as any other leave other than jury duty leave. An employee’s annual leave and sick leave will be unaffected.
Employers also cannot dismiss their employees for attending jury duty. Most Australian states restrict employers from terminating an employee or detrimentally changing or threatening employment terms because an employee is on jury duty. NSW, for example, considers this a criminal offence where a company can be penalised up to $22,000 and an individual employer can be penalised $5,500 or face 12 months of imprisonment.
Employers also cannot ask an employee to work on a day they are serving as a juror in court or ask them to work additional hours to make up for the time they missed whilst on jury duty.
When an employee is serving jury duty, employers generally must pay permanent employees their usual wages for the first 10 days of service, or pay what is often referred to as ‘make-up pay’. This is the difference between the jury service payment and the employee’s base rate for the ordinary hours they would have worked.