What is it?

The chance to take an active role in the criminal justice system as one of 12 people on a jury, deliberating the defendant's fate.

Cost to you

Theoretically, a fortnight without the employee who has been summoned and the skills and tasks which they bring to the company. In practice, it may be less or in rare cases more (despite their dramatic potential, long and grisly murder trials don't occur that often).

Skills required

Employment law is, in any case, a minefield. Take advice from the start and build contingency practices for jury service and statutory call-up into your employment policy.

Pros

You, your company and your staff will be seen as good and conscientious citizens. It will add to the team's collective life experience pool, providing extra motivation and interest.

Cons

Contingency plans will cost at some point. But the plans themselves should give you ample time to prepare for the extra hit and guard against nasty surprises.
The government wants juries to be more representative of society, particularly its professional elements. That means if you or a key employee receives a summons for jury service, it could be harder to negotiate a deferment with the court.

Nobody could reasonably argue against the premise. But in reality, it poses significant potential challenges for the small and medium sized company which relies, by definition, on a team of committed individuals being available to build a young business. The standard fortnight's absence – possibly longer in the admittedly rare event of a long murder or fraud trial – represents a major dent in your human resources, however temporary.

There is currently no exemption for the self-employed, although deferral and excusal applications are considered by summoning officers on a case-by-case basis. Officers dealing with applications adopt a policy that is both fair to the individual and consistent with the needs of the court (ie providing a representative jury). However, officers reserve the right to refuse requests “if no good reason is given”.

If you are self-employed or running a small business, an application explaining how your absence would pose a significant threat to your income or company may well persuade the court to grant you a deferral.

Useful contacts

Her Majesty’s Courts Service