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Jury service for the self-employed – your rights as a business owner

5-minute read

Judge in courtroom with jurors
Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith

3 October 2023

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Every day counts when you’re running your own business. So what do you do if you get a letter in the post calling you up for jury service? Will you have to take valuable time off to attend the criminal courts?

While it may sound exciting to some as a window into the justice system, for others a jury summons might spark panic about how you’ll manage your business and finances.

Read on to find out your legal responsibilities, how to keep your business running while you’re on jury duty, and when you can say no to the courts.

What is jury service?

Every jury is randomly selected out of people in the community – it’s based on the electoral register.

A jury summons is issued in the post with a specific date you’re needed and which court (usually your nearest court). Make sure you respond within seven days of receiving your jury summons – if you don’t do this you could be liable for a £1,000 fine.

When you arrive in court you’ll need to wait to be selected for a trial, which can take a few hours or even a couple of days. Sometimes you’ll be sent home while you wait to be selected, but you’ll need to continue being ‘on call’ during your jury service.

A jury is made up of 12 people (15 in Scotland) and it’s their job to hear evidence and then decide together whether a defendant is guilty or not.

It’s against the law not to attend jury service, unless you have a valid reason (we’ll go into this below).

How often can you be called for jury service?

There’s no limit to how many times you can be called for jury service. People are randomly selected from the electoral register, so some people may never be selected while others could feasibly be chosen more than once.

If you’re between the ages of 18 and 76 then you can be called at any time.

Who is exempt from jury service?

Only in exceptional cases can people be exempt from jury service completely. This includes:

  • over 70 year olds (76 year olds and older won’t be called up at all)
  • those with a serious disability or illness preventing them from doing jury service
  • full time carers
  • new parents who are unable to serve at all in the next 12 months

There are also exemptions if you don’t understand English or if you’ve got certain previous convictions or a pending criminal case.

Can you get out of jury service?

There may be times when taking time out of your life to attend court just isn’t possible for you. Fortunately, you can request to defer your jury service for another date in the next 12 months if you have a good reason. For example:

  • you’re a new parent
  • you’re having an operation
  • you have a holiday booked
  • you’re sitting an exam
  • you’ve served on a jury within the last two years

How long is jury service?

Jury service usually lasts 10 days. In Northern Ireland a jury panel is usually in place for four weeks.

A trial can last days, weeks, or even months, so some juries will be needed for longer than 10 days. You’ll be informed in advance if this is likely to happen though.

You might sit on more than one trial during your jury service – some can be over in a few days while complex cases can last weeks.

Court usually runs from 10am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, but times can vary depending on your trial and court.

Do you get paid for jury service?

You don’t get paid for jury service but you can claim back money towards loss of earnings as well as travel and food expenses.

You can claim back up to £64.95 a day for loss of earnings during the first 10 days of jury service (it increases to £129.91 if you’re involved in a longer trial).

Other expenses you can claim include:

  • £5.71 a day for food and drink
  • the cost of travelling to the court
  • parking expenses (depending on the court)
  • childcare or carer costs (if this isn’t something you’d normally pay for)

This expenses calculator can help you estimate how much you can claim back during jury service. Read the detailed list of expenses you can claim in England and Wales on the government website.

Check the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service or the Northern Ireland government website for specific information as expenses can vary.

Filling in your jury service loss of earnings form

You’ll need to claim your expenses after you’ve finished your jury service by submitting a loss of earnings form. The form you need depends on where in the UK you live:

England and Wales – the form you need is the loss of earnings form for self-employed people and company directors.

Northern Ireland – you’ll receive a claim form with your jury summons and must send it no later than 14 days after you’ve finished your service.

Scotland – collect the form from the court on your first day.

You’ll need to show the court proof of your expected income – for example your most recent tax return. This can also be a letter from your accountant confirming your gross daily earnings.

Payments are usually processed seven to 10 days after you’ve sent your claim form.

Keeping your business going while you’re doing jury service

How much your business is impacted by you going away on jury duty will depend on the type of work you do.

For example, if you’re a self-employed copywriter then you may be able to work on projects during the evenings and weekends. But if your trade involves providing a service in business hours or contracting for clients on site then you might not be able to work at all.

It’s also worth noting that you won’t be able to use your laptop or phone while in court – but you can bring anything with you to use while you’re waiting to be assigned a trial.

Things you can do to reduce the impact on your business:

  • work during the evenings and weekends to catch up, where possible
  • share the workload among your employees (if you have any)
  • let clients know there will be a delay to delivering projects
  • defer your jury service if you have a valid reason (mentioned earlier)

What if your employee is selected for jury service?

If you employ people to work for you then it’s important to know what to do if someone in your team gets called for jury service:

  • ask to see their jury summons letter
  • you must allow them time off to attend (or face being in contempt of court)
  • you can request a deferral to another date if you can prove their absence would cause serious harm to the business
  • you can’t discriminate against them for going on jury service
  • it’s up to you if you want to pay your staff or top up their wages if they usually earn more than the court will reimburse them

Read more information for employers in England and Wales.

Read specific guidance on jury service in Scotland and jury service in Northern Ireland.

Have you been called up for jury service while self-employed or running your own business? Let us know if you have any unanswered questions in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer.

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Photograph: Gorodenkoff/stock.adobe.com
Catriona Smith

Written by

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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