What do you do if you or your employee are called up for jury duty? Must you attend, and as an employer are you required to allow your employees the time off work? Other questions arise around what type of leave is granted, how the employee is to be paid, and how the time away will impact your business.
While some people are ineligible for jury service due to their occupations or personal characteristics, including, for example, members of Parliament and councillors, lawyers, police officers, persons with prior convictions or disabilities, there are important considerations for most employers and employees in undertaking this vital community service.
The Jury Act 1995 (Qld) (and similar legislation in other States and Territories) sets out the law governing the random selection, empanelling and management of juries.
If qualified and selected for jury service, a person is obligated to perform the service unless excused by a judge or sheriff for valid reasons such as financial hardship, overseas travel, health, or carer, work or study commitments.
Importantly, the Jury Act makes it illegal for an employer to terminate or prejudice an employee for being absent from employment due to jury service, carrying a maximum penalty of 1 year imprisonment.
The National Employment Standards (NES) include community service leave as one of the 10 minimum employment entitlements that must be provided to all employees. Community service leave includes jury duty, and while community service is typically unpaid, jury duty is an exception.
Citizens who attend jury selection and duty receive payment and allowances from the court. Currently in Queensland the allowance for attending court each day or part day is $42.25. If empanelled as a juror, the juror receives $126.30 each day or part day in addition to meal allowances.
Both permanent and casual employees can take leave for jury selection and duty. Full-time and part-time employees may show evidence of jury duty pay that has been or will be paid to them by the court. An employer is then required to pay ‘make-up pay’ comprising the difference of the jury duty pay and the employee’s base pay rate for the hours that would have ordinarily been worked.
Casual employees are not entitled to get paid for jury duty under the NES, but other state or territory laws may provide for payment.