You have the right to time off for certain public duties and services. These include jury service and activities as a member of some public sector organisations. Your rights vary depending on what you do and what the duty or service is.
Under the law, you're allowed time off for public duties if you're an employee (for more information, see our '' article) and hold a public office or function that's covered in the Employment Rights Act 1996 or, for employees in Northern Ireland, the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. Some examples of the types of office covered are:
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in England and Wales and the Department of Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland have a complete list of the types of office which are entitled to time off.
If you are any of these, you're allowed reasonable time off to go to meetings or to carry out your duties, but this must be agreed with your employer beforehand. The amount of time off you may take is not laid down in law and your employer can refuse your request if it is unreasonable.
Time off for public duties won't be available if you are any of the following:
Whether your time off is classed as 'reasonable' depends on:
Many employers are keen to show a commitment to social responsibility and allow time off for employees who are in organisations like the special constabulary or Territorial Army. However, your employer doesn't have to grant this time. Territorial Army members have special employment protection if called up.
Your employer doesn't have to pay you while you take time off for public duties, although many do. Your contract of employment will normally say whether you're paid for this time off. You should be given a document setting out your key terms of employment within two months of starting work.
Trial by jury is a key part of our legal system and our democratic way of life. Jury service is an important responsibility for all citizens. Jury duty is not covered by the 'right to time off for public duties' but has separate protection. This applies regardless of whether you are an employee, worker or self-employed.
If you're up for jury service, your employer must allow you time off for this. If they don't, they could be in contempt of court. If you're an employee, you have the right not to be treated unfairly because of your call-up (for example, not being considered for promotion).
Your employer does not have to pay you whilst you are on jury service. But you can claim for travel and food expenses and for loss of earnings from the court. You need to get your employer to fill out a Certificate of Loss of Earnings to claim for loss of earnings. However, there are limits on the amount that you can claim.
You can ask for your jury service to be deferred. You can only do this once and for no more than 12 months from the original date. If you want to be excluded from jury service altogether, you need to write to the Jury Central Summoning Bureau setting out your reasons why. However, unless you've already served as a juror within the previous two years, your call-up is likely to be deferred.
Jury service usually lasts for 10 days, but some trials take longer. Jurors are usually warned in advance if a trial is expected to last a long time.
If you're sacked because you've been called up for or have done jury service, you can claim unfair dismissal. However, if your employer told you your absence would have a serious effect on their business and you didn't ask for your call-up to be deferred or to be excused, the dismissal is likely to be fair.
If you have public duties or have been called up for jury service you should:
If your employer stops you taking time off for public duties you should first of all follow the grievance procedure outlined in your contract.