Managing Jury Duty in Your Workplace

Navigating jury duty laws can be complex for employers. This guide aims to simplify the process, providing clear explanations of leave entitlements, pay calculations, and your responsibilities as an employer. Gain the knowledge you need to confidently manage jury duty situations within your workplace.

What is jury duty

Jury duty is a fundamental component of the Australian legal system. When citizens are randomly selected to serve on a jury, they play an important role in ensuring that trials are decided fairly and based on the evidence presented. As an employer, you have a legal obligation to support your employees who are called to perform this important community service.

The Fair Work Act requires employers to provide employees time off for jury service. Here's an overview of key obligations:

  • Employers must grant leave to employees summoned for jury selection or duty.
  • Permanent employees are entitled to 'make-up pay' for the first 10 days of jury service. This means employers top up the jury duty payment they receive from the government to their usual base pay rate.
  • Employers cannot dismiss, disadvantage, or pressure an employee due to their jury service obligations.

Employee rights and responsibilities

Employees must inform you as soon as possible about their jury service summons or the expected duration of their absence. They are generally required to provide evidence of attending jury selection or jury duty, such as a summons, attendance confirmation, or other relevant documentation.

Full-time and part-time employees are entitled to paid leave for jury duty under the National Employment Standards. Casual employees may not have paid leave entitlements at the national level, so it's important to check your state or territory laws as they may have specific provisions. Importantly, you cannot dismiss, disadvantage, or pressure an employee because they are fulfilling their jury duty obligations.

Payment for jury duty

Employers have a legal obligation to provide 'make-up pay' to permanent employees (full-time and part-time) for the first 10 days of jury selection or jury duty. Make-up pay is the amount you must pay to top up the government's jury duty payment so an employee receives their usual base pay rate for the hours they would have normally worked.

Before paying 'make-up pay', employers may request proof from the employee showing that they have taken all necessary steps to obtain the full jury duty payment from the court and the total amount of jury duty pay they have received or will receive. If an employee cannot provide this evidence, they may not be entitled to receive 'make-up pay'.

Example: John attends jury selection and is selected for jury duty, which lasts 12 days. Here's how his pay would be calculated:

  • Government jury duty payment: $60 per day
  • John's usual base pay rate: $140 per day
  • Make-up pay: $80 per day (the difference)
  • Employer's obligation: Pay $80 per day in 'make-up pay' for the first 10 days of jury duty.

Employer responsibilities for jury duty

Employers cannot pressure an employee to use other forms of leave, such as annual leave or sick leave, to cover their jury service absence. Jury service is a protected form of community service leave. Employer cannot demand that an employee work additional hours to make up for time spent on jury duty. Finally, you cannot dismiss, demote, or negatively change an employee's work conditions in any way as a result of their jury service.

Failure to comply with jury duty laws can result in significant penalties for both businesses and individual employers. These penalties are in place to protect the integrity of the justice system and ensure employees are not unfairly treated for performing their community service.

Best practices for employers managing jury duty

Handling employee jury service effectively benefits your business by minimising disruption and fostering a positive work environment. Here are some key practices to adopt:

  • Proactively develop strategies to cover work duties during an employee's absence. This could include temporary staffing, redistributing work among the team or cross-training employees.
  • Have clear policies about jury duty that are easily accessible to employees. Encourage open communication so employees feel comfortable notifying you about potential jury service well in advance.
  • When you are aware of an employee's upcoming jury service, work with them to minimise disruption as much as possible. This could involve rescheduling non-urgent tasks or providing the employee with the option to work remotely if possible.

Remember that jury service is a community service. Demonstrate support for your employees who are fulfilling this important role, contributing to a positive and trusting workplace culture.

Need help with jury duty obligations? Employment Compass can provide the answers and support you need. Call our 24/7 Employer Assist Line on 1300 144 002 for more information.

My employee wasn't selected to serve on a jury after attending jury selection. Do I still need to pay them?

Yes, in most cases. Generally, employees are entitled to paid leave for the time spent at jury selection, even if they don't end up serving on a jury. Check your state or territory laws for specific regulations.

Can I ask for updates on how long an employee's jury duty might last?

Yes, it's reasonable to stay in contact and ask for updates on the expected duration of their absence. This helps you plan for staffing needs effectively.

What if jury duty causes a significant hardship for my small business?

Some jurisdictions may have provisions for employers to apply for an exemption if jury service would cause undue hardship. Check the relevant laws in your state or territory and contact the court for guidance if needed.

Can an employee choose to use annual leave instead of jury duty leave?

This likely depends on your state or territory laws and your company policies. Some jurisdictions may allow this flexibility, while others prioritise jury service leave. It's best to clarify with the employee and check relevant regulations.

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