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Can an employee get time off work for public duties?

As a Payroll Bureau, we are often asked for advice and guidance surrounding time off work for public duties, specifically Jury Service. However, it is important to remember that there are other forms of public duties that also require time off work; Jury Service is one most of us come across when processing payroll. The following guidance is courtesy of HMRC.

So, can an employee get time off work for public duties?

The answer is YES. You can get reasonable time off work for public duties. However, employees should note that employers have the right to choose whether to pay workers for time off, as they are not obliged to.

For example, with regards to Jury Service, all workers are entitled to time off. Keep in mind the following:

  • Employers must allow an employee time off for jury service, although employees can ask for a delay if it will harm the business but can only delay once in a 12-month period.
  • In most cases, Jury service takes an average of ten working days but may be longer or shorter depending on the case.
  • There is no legal obligation for an employer to pay an employee while on jury service as the court will pay certain costs.

What occupations are considered as public duties?

There are several occupations where an employee may require time off in order to fulfil duties. For example, other occupation could include, school governor duties, member of a statutory tribunal, trade union member (for union duties), health authority member.

Employees in the reserve forces, for instance, Army Reserves, have certain protected rights under employment law if they are called up to serve. Employers of reservists also have rights and obligations. For example, they may be able to claim financial assistance or an exemption.

Reasonable time off

The amount of time off should be agreed between the employee and employer beforehand, based on:

  • how long the duties might take
  • the amount of time the employee has already had off for public duties
  • how the time off will affect the business

The employer can refuse a request for time off if they think it’s unreasonable. They can’t refuse their staff time off to do jury service.

What occupations do not qualify?

Police services and armed forces, merchant seaman, civil servants (in certain circumstances) and agency workers. Click here to view a full list of occupations on the HMRC website.

Disputes regarding being allowed to take time off  

Disputes do occur so there are ways in which an employee can raise a grievance if they think the employer is unreasonable in the time they allow.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, employees can get time off work if they have negotiated terms with their employer. During the employer negotiations, pay must be discussed, length of public duties, previous time off for public duties as well as how the business will be affected. Make sure you know what duties are considered a public duty so that you can request reasonable time off work.

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