When justice calls

Participating in jury service is undoubtedly an important civic responsibility—it’s a pretty common theme in the prime-time crime dramas that fill the weekly TV schedule. But, for employers, a jury summons can throw a spanner in the works—especially when it’s your star employee who’s been called, there are deadlines looming, and there’s no-one who can cover.

Its important to note that jury service is not optional—for the employee or the employer. In fact, the penalties for non-compliance are pretty hefty. In Victoria, for example, employers who prevent employees from attending jury service, or who dismiss or penalise them for attending, face fines up to $60,000 for body corporates, or up to $12,000 fine or 12 months’ imprisonment for individuals. Other states can issue similar penalties.

Jury service is covered by different legislation in each state. In some states, the court pays jurors a small daily amount, and employers are expected to make up the difference between the amount the employee would normally be paid and the amount of he or she received from the court. In other states, employers may be able to apply for reimbursement of employee wages.

If any of your team members is summoned for jury service, put a plan in place to cover their absence—and check the relevant legislation to make sure you fulfil your civic duty.