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How to put together an effective jury service excusal letter (a guide for employers)

When you’re a small business with a small and tight-knit team, every single person counts down to the last man. That’s why it’s so disruptive when someone on your team is called away for jury duty.

Like paying taxes, jury duty is part of our civic duty, but one that is universally thought of as an unwanted hassle or inconvenience.

For a small business with 50 or fewer team members, being called away for jury duty is more than just an inconvenience, but an active detriment to your business you can scarcely afford.

If you can adequately show that having a team member summoned to jury duty would irreparably damage your business, you may be able to appeal their summons with a jury service excusal letter.

In my time as a CIPD-qualified advisor, I’ve helped small businesses review thousands of HR letters, including those for jury service excusal. I’ve put together this guide on your role as an employer when someone is called to jury duty, and how to navigate the court system with a jury service excusal letter.

Or, if you prefer, you can jump straight to our jury service excusal letter template.

Download our jury service excusal letter template

The impact of jury service on small businesses

When one of the employees of your small business is called away for a jury summons, the ripple effect can be felt throughout your entire business.

Imagine if someone on your core leadership team - your CMO, your CTO, your CFO - is called away for several days in the middle of an important project.

They won’t be around to make time-sensitive and necessary decisions, deadlines can be missed, productivity can be lost, and opportunities can be wasted.

For one thing, you have to redistribute their responsibilities amongst your remaining team. That means more work for everyone, and that’s a good way to lead to stress and burnout.

On the other hand, you could offer to pay your team overtime to make up for the lost manpower - but overtime fees can add up quickly in a way few small businesses can afford.

There’s always hiring temp staff, but that has its own set of challenges such as recruitment costs and taking the time to properly train and onboard them.

The worst part? The court does not provide compensation for your losses. Your team member can be called away for as much as 10 days - the average length of jury service in the UK. That’s two full working weeks with an important team member gone. If they are selected for a more complex trial, they could be forced to be away from work for months.

A summons to jury service creates challenges that few small businesses can afford. What can you do about it? You can appeal their summons with an excusal from the jury service letter.

Your role in jury service as an employer

All employers - including you - have certain legal responsibilities when a team member is called to jury service.

In the first place, you are legally required to give employees time off to attend their jury summons if it conflicts with their work schedule. This is non-negotiable and is protected by UK employment law.

With that said, UK law also says that you can be acquitted of jury service if there are certain extenuating circumstances when a jury summons would seriously harm your business.

You can apply for a deferral of the employee’s jury service if you believe that their being called away would seriously hurt your business. This allows for their service to be postponed - but it does not let them off the hook for jury service entirely.

In your deferral letter, you need to give the court a detailed explanation of how the team member’s absence would damage your business. Reasons you could offer might be:

  • Significant financial loss
  • Disruption of important projects
  • Undue stress on remaining team members

You also have to propose alternative dates for the employee to come to their jury service. The dates need to fall within the next 12 months.

None of this guarantees that your appeal will be approved. Ultimately, it's the court's decision whether or not to approve a deferral. They may not necessarily approve the alternative dates you ask for either.

After you’ve prepared your jury duty excuse letter, you need to attach it to their Reply to Jury Summons form - the form every juror receives - and return it to the court within seven days of receiving it.

How to write an excusal from jury service letter

Convincing the British court to excuse your employee from jury duty is a somewhat delicate task.

Writing a successful jury excusal appeal letter requires a deft hand, balancing your genuine need for the employee’s presence at work from a business perspective, and respecting their civic duty.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Give a legitimate reason: The court will only consider your appeal if it’s for a valid reason that affects your business. Be specific in your appeal letter, and give as much supporting detail as possible to back your case.

2. Explain the impact on your business: Clearly explain how the employee’s absence would damage your business, whether because of their unique skills, current role in a project, or the financial consequence of their absence.

3. Highlight the timing issue: If the jury summons comes at a particularly inconvenient time, like in the middle of an important project, make sure to mention this in the letter.

4. Always remain truthful: The UK court system sees hundreds of appeals like yours every day - including the bogus ones. If you’re fibbing in your appeal, they can probably tell. That can have bad consequences for you, including perjury charges. Stick to the facts and provide evidence where applicable.

Employer jury service excusal letter example

Here’s what one such excusal from the jury service letter might look like. You can fill in the form fields and customise it to fit the needs of your own business and its situation:

Here's a template for an excusal from jury service letter (or you can access a Google Docs version here below):

Download our jury service excusal letter template

[Your Name]

[Your Position]

[Your Company Name]

[Your Company Address]

[Email Address]

[Phone Number]

[Date]

Jury Central Summoning Bureau

PO Box 3 Manchester

M60 1PX

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing on behalf of [Your Company Name] concerning the jury service summons for our employee, [Employee's Full Name], scheduled to commence on [Start Date of Jury Service].

[Employee’s Full Name] is a crucial member of our team, currently involved in [describe the project or role the employee is undertaking]. Their absence during this period would cause significant disruption to our operations and potentially jeopardise the success of [the project or role].

We fully understand and respect the importance of jury service. However, we kindly request a deferral or, if possible, an excusal from jury service for [Employee’s Full Name] due to the reasons stated above. We believe that [Employee’s Full Name] could serve at a later date, specifically [suggest a time frame], when their absence would not have such a profound impact on our business.

Attached to this letter, you will find supporting documents that further explain the nature of [Employee’s Full Name]'s role and the potential implications of their absence.

We appreciate your understanding and consideration of this request. Please feel free to contact me directly if you require any further information.

Yours faithfully,

[Your Name]

[Your Position]

[Your Company Name]

Pay during jury service

When a team member is called away for jury service, you’re not just down a team member - the team member is down a paycheck as well.

You have no legal obligation to pay employees during their time on jury duty, but many employers chose to do so. If you don’t, the employee can claim loss of earnings from the court and get compensation from the court (but this is likely to be much lower than their salary). This involves the employee getting a Certificate for Loss of Earnings, which is completed by you as the employer.

Communicate with your team member openly about pay expectations while they’re off on jury duty. This will help set expectations and keep the working relationship positive.

Improve your chances of jury excusal with qualified HR advice

Jumping through the bureaucratic hoops involved in jury duty can be a tricky proposition. I and my team of CIPD-qualified advisors at CharlieHR are here to assist you.

With CharlieHR’s HR advice, you can have access to bespoke HR counsel that fits your unique situation. Whether you need assistance making your jury excusal letter or arranging pay for the team member on jury duty, we’re here to help you.

For help with your jury excusal letter, book a call with us today, and stay within the law and in the black.