Many small and medium business owners in Australia feel unsure about their responsibilities when an employee is called for jury duty.
Whilst it doesn’t happen very often, jury duty is a central function of Australia’s justice system. It is considered a type of community service leave that applies to casual and permanent employees.
So, if an employee receives a request to attend jury duty, or jury duty selection, what happens next?
In this article, we’re unpacking the information employees need to know about jury duty, to help you feel more prepared if an employee is called to participate.
What is jury duty?
Within our legal system, certain criminal and civil trials rely on a panel of jurors to help in reaching a verdict.
If called to participate, an employee is required to be available to the courts (and absent from work) for the duration of the trial.
What happens if my employee is called for jury duty?
Under Australia’s National Employment Standards, employees are entitled to take leave for jury duty, in order to attend jury selection or to sit on a jury.
Because the duration of a trial can vary, there is no limit on the amount of community service leave an employee can take.
If your employee is called for jury duty, they should advise you of their expected leave period as soon as possible.
If an employee requests to take community service leave, you (as the employer) can request evidence of jury selection or jury duty attendance.
Unlike other forms of community service leave, leave for jury duty is usually paid. The courts pay an allowance, however this is not intended to substitute a salary or wage. In some states, employers must continue to pay full-time or part-time employees on jury duty their full wages, while other states require ‘make-up pay’, which is essentially the difference between the employee’s normal wages and the court payment.
This can be a highly nuanced and potentially costly situation, so we suggest that you seek tailored advice from an HR professional to make sure you’re covered.
Can I stop my employee from attending jury duty?
No. As outlined under Australia’s National Employment Standards, where required by Commonwealth, State or Territory law, your employee is entitled to take leave for jury duty or jury selection.
Therefore, as an employer, you must release any employee who is called for jury duty or jury duty selection.
Additionally, employee’s attending jury duty or selection are afforded certain protections, meaning that their employment, working hours and wages must not be threatened by their attendance, and employers cannot require the employee to take annual or personal leave to cover their absence.
In certain circumstances, where the absence of your employee due to jury duty will cause severe hardship to your business, there is a process through which you can request that the employee be excused from jury duty, due to the impact of their service on your business.
This will not always be possible, and it’s important to request any exemptions as soon as you can.
Employees may also be excused from service for a number of personal reasons, including: caring responsibilities, medical conditions, and conflicts of interest.
What obligations does my employee have?
If an employee receives a summons for jury duty, they must:
- Notify you as soon as possible after receiving the jury duty request
- Outline the period of time they’re required to attend court
- Provide evidence that they have taken steps to receive the jury duty pay that is available to them
- Provide evidence of the amount of jury duty pay they have received / that is payable to them
- Work their regular working hours when not required to attend court.
What obligations do I have as an employer?
- Provide the appropriate amount of make-up pay to the employee
- Release the employee for the required jury service timeframe.
What else do I need to know?
- You cannot ask your employee to use any other type of leave, such as sick leave, for jury duty
- You can’t dismiss an employee for participating in jury duty
- Jury duty requirements differ at a state and territory level, so the rules can be different across Australia. The requirements may also differ depending on the type and status of employment.
How can DreamStone HR help? Every employer has a unique situation when it comes to jury duty. As this is a highly nuanced area of HR, we suggest connecting with an HR consultant to confirm you have legally covered all your bases. This is where the Dreamstone team can assist.
With substantial experience across all levels of HR we can provide valuable advice and support you to reach clarity on your jury duty obligations.
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