What happens if my employee is called up for jury duty?

An employee being called up for jury duty can come out of the blue. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

First published on Thursday, Aug 13, 2020

Last updated on Monday, Feb 12, 2024

5 min read

Have you ever had one of your employees summoned for jury duty, and not sure how it will affect your business? Look no further.

We have the answers to your most often-asked questions about jury duty.

Here's everything you need to know…

What is jury duty and who can get called for it?

Jury duty is a legal process where random people are selected to form a group of 12 jurors to observe a trial in a court case. While the judge presides over the trial, the jurors decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

Any Canadian citizen over the age of 18 can be called up for jury duty. And we’re guessing that’s the majority of your workforce.

Jurors will typically get a summons notice in the mail, which will specify the date and time they need to show up in the courthouse.

So, it’s important to ask your employees to inform you as soon as possible if they are called up. This will give you enough time to make alternative arrangements to fill their role during their absence.

Can I refuse to let my employee do jury duty?

In a word, no. Jury duty is a civic duty, and the law says people can’t opt out unless in very specific situation like chronic illness, where there is a conflict of interest, serious hardship or if they’re part of certain professions like medical professionals.

You also can’t discriminate against your employee for attending jury duty. And if you dismiss your employee for going, you could be liable to litigation.

In some provinces, you may be within your rights to ask your employees for proof they’ve been summoned for jury duty before granting them time off.

On the other hand, if your employee refuses to do jury duty, they could face fines or even an arrest. This is serious stuff.

But if it’s an inconvenient time for your business there is something you can do. Your employee might be able to defer their jury duty...

So, how do I sort out a deferral?

For jury duty exemptions your employee needs to make a written application to the court explaining how their absence will cause serious hardship in their workplace.

Your employee should also attach all other relevant documentation and mail it to the court office. They must return their response as soon as possible after they’ve been summoned.

The court officials will only accept correspondence directly from the juror (your employee), so you can’t decide to take matters into your own hands.

Does my employee get time off work for jury duty?

Yes, if your employee’s jury hours clash with their usual working hours, you’re legally required to give them time off work. For example, if they work a 9-5, they won’t have to come into the office while on jury duty, which is typically on weekdays.

Your employee must also give you reasonable notice that they’ll taking statutory jury duty leave to allow you enough time to find ways to fill their role.

So, if they’re not at work, do I still have to pay them?

Employers in most Canadian jurisdictions are not required to pay their staff when they are attending jury duty, although the employer and the employee can reach an agreement about this. For small businesses, it may not be financially possible to supply such pay.

Interestingly, Newfoundland and Labrador stands out as the only province where employers are mandated to maintain regular wages and benefits for employees serving as jurors.

But, jurors in some Canadian provinces are paid a stipend per day. The range for this stipend is different for each province and ranges from $20 a day to $150 a day.

Jury duty should not affect an employee’s seniority. They continue to be entitled to their existing benefits like health insurance and other perks while they are on jury duty. Their time away should not affect their vacation pay and time allowances.

Will the court pay for replacement staff?

Unfortunately, not. As the employer, it’s your responsibility to make necessary adjustments for employee absences, such as sharing the workload, offering overtime, or hiring temporary staff.

But don’t worry, jury duty typically lasts for a week on average, except in rare cases where it may run longer so it won’t be long until you can get back to business as usual.

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