What is jury service?
Some court cases will use a jury to help determine the outcome of a criminal trial (or, very occasionally, a civil court case). A jury is a panel of 12 (in England and Wales) or 15 (in Scotland) members of the public who must vote on whether or not the defendant (the person accused of committing a crime) in the case is guilty of the alleged offence. The jury is presented with evidence and told about relevant law by the judge. They can discuss the case amongst themselves (alone, in the jury room) and then they must vote - often the vote has to be unanimous. A jury is not required to explain their reasoning to the court or anybody else.
Members of the public are chosen at random from the electoral register and summoned to (ie told to come to) court to complete their jury service (ie to be a part of a jury). Jury service will usually last for 10 days but can last longer.
If you’ve been selected to do jury service, you will receive a letter telling you that you have been chosen (this is known as a ‘jury summons’ in England and Wales or a ‘jury citation’ in Scotland). In England and Wales, you must respond to the summons within 7 days of receiving it. The courts will then send you details on when and where you must complete your jury service. For more information, read the Government’s guidance and the Scottish Government’s guidance.
Jury service rules
Jury members must abide by strict rules on talking about the trial that they are a part of. Prohibited practices include:
discussing the trial outside of the jury room before the end of the trial
discussing the deliberations that take place in the jury room
discussing the trial on social media
Doing any of these things could constitute contempt of court. For more information, read the Government’s guidance or the Scottish Citizens’ Advice Bureau’s guidance.
Do I have to do jury service?
Completing jury service is an important civic duty and you cannot simply refuse to do it. Failing to answer a jury summons without reasonable cause can be a criminal offence. You can, however, apply to defer (ie delay) or be excused from your jury service.
Doing jury service whilst knowingly being ineligible for, not qualified for or disqualified from jury service can also be an offence in Scotland. For example, this may be the case if you don’t meet the age or residency requirements or you hold a particular professional role (eg you are a police officer or a solicitor).
Deferring jury service in England and Wales
If you have a good reason why you cannot do jury service on the dates that you have been summoned for, you can apply to defer your service to another date within the next 12 months. Possible ‘good reasons’ include (but are not limited to):
becoming a parent
taking a holiday which you have already booked
taking an exam
attending an important medical appointment or an operation
your employer will not allow you time off work
To change the date of your jury service, request this when you reply to your jury summons. For more information, read the Government’s guidance.
Being excused from jury service in England and Wales
In exceptional circumstances (ie for more than just a ‘good reason’), you may be excused from jury service. This may be appropriate if you cannot do jury service at any time within the next 12 months. You may need to provide evidence of your reasons for being excused (eg a letter from your GP). Exceptional circumstances include (but are not limited to):
you or somebody that you’re a carer for has an illness or injury which prevents you from being able to do jury service
you’re a new parent and cannot do jury service at any time in the next 12 months because of this
You may also be excused from jury service if you have already done jury service within the last 2 years.
Excusal from jury service in Scotland
You can apply for excusal from jury service in Scotland for various reasons.
You can usually be excused ‘as of right’ if you apply within 7 days to be excused and you fit within certain categories (eg you’re a registered medical professional or a serving member of the armed forces).
It’s also possible to apply for excusal on grounds of ill health or physical disability. You must submit evidence with your application, for example a letter from your GP.
You can also apply for excusal due to ‘other special reasons’, if for example you have work commitments the cancellation of which would seriously inconvenience you or others, or you have pre-arranged holiday plans which would be expensive or difficult to alter.
The 12-month deferral rule does not apply in Scotland as it does in England and Wales. When you apply for excusal, you should let the courts know if, for example, you have a medical condition preventing you from doing jury service which is long-term and unlikely to change, so that this can be taken into account.
For more information, read the Scottish Government’s guidance.
Do employers have to grant time off work for jury service?
Employers must let their employees do jury service if they are summoned. If they do not, employees in England and Wales may complain to an Employment Tribunal. If an employee is dismissed because they do jury service, this may be unfair dismissal. However, employers can ask employees to defer or apply for excusal from their jury service if their leaving to do jury service would seriously harm the business. The employer must write a letter explaining the circumstances, which the employee must send when they respond to their jury summons.
Employers can only request that an employee’s jury service is deferred once during a 12 month period. Employers must also ensure that they don’t treat their employees in any way which could count as discrimination due to their taking time off work to do jury service.
Do I get paid during jury service?
Employers do not have to pay employees while they are doing jury service. However, employees (and self-employed people and people receiving benefits) may be able to obtain a certain amount of reimbursement from the courts. To clearly communicate your chosen approach to employees’ pay whilst they are undertaking jury service, you can create a Jury service policy.
Allowances and expenses in England and Wales
If they’re not paid by their employer during jury service, employees can claim a loss of earnings allowance and reimbursement for other expenses from the courts (ie some transport, childcare, and food and drink costs). These amounts differ depending on factors like how many hours you spend in court each day. For more information, including how much you can claim, see the Government’s guidance.
To claim childcare, food and drink, and travel expenses, employees must fill in various forms and return them to the courts. To claim for loss of earnings, their employer must fill in a ‘loss of earnings form’. For more information on how to claim, read the Government’s guidance.
There are similar provisions for claiming expenses if you’re self-employed or not working.
Employers may choose to top up employees’ loss of earnings allowances so that they don’t miss out on pay when doing jury service. To do so, they must fill in a loss of earnings form (as they would if they were not paying their employees during jury service) and employees must submit the form. They should then pay employees the difference between the amount they receive from the courts and their normal take-home pay. Employers may also choose to partially top up their employees’ pay, so that they are effectively being paid some (eg 90%) of their normal pay.
Allowances in Scotland
Jury members in Scotland can apply for 6 different types of allowance to make up for the expenses they incurred to undertake jury service. The allowances are for:
loss of earnings (to a maximum of either your usual take-home pay or the maximum allowance limits set by the courts)
travel to and from court
subsistence (eg for food you purchased whilst attending court)
loss of benefits (if your benefits are withdrawn during your jury service)
childminding or dependent adult carer expenses (beyond your usual expenses)
other expenses (you should discuss any other expenses you think you should be reimbursed for with the clerk of court)
To claim these allowances you should use a claims form and/or a certificate of loss of earnings/benefit form.
For more information, including how much you can claim, see the Scottish Government’s guidance.