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Jury service is where New Zealanders are randomly selected (via a ‘summons’ in the mail) to attend court and sit on a jury for a legal case. These cases can range from minor civil cases to major criminal offences. Jury members can be away from their jobs for anywhere between a few hours to several weeks. As an employer, you do not have to pay employees away on jury service but do have other obligations. For example, you must ensure that an employee can serve on a jury without being worried about dismissal or having their job otherwise affected as a result. This article will set out:

  • jury service in New Zealand;
  • your obligations for employees away on jury service; and 
  • how payment works for employees on jury service.

What Does Jury Service Involve in New Zealand?

Most people older than 18 in New Zealand can be asked to serve on a jury once every two years. New Zealand courts use juries across a wide range of different legal cases. These juries consist of a random selection of New Zealanders. For civil cases, juries sit in for claims of up to $200,000. Juries also serve on criminal cases, from minor offences to trials for serious offences.

The process for jury service in New Zealand involves multiple stages. If an employee is chosen for jury service, they will receive a summons in the mail. The summons details what the employee needs to do and when they should attend court.

Receiving a summons does not necessarily mean that a person will sit on a jury. When they arrive in the courtroom after a summons, names of all the people called up are drawn at random to join the jury on different cases. Even then, lawyers can ‘challenge’ jury members and remove them from a jury at the preliminary stage. Employees will not know until they have been assigned to a jury how long they are likely to be away from work. 

An Employer’s Obligations to Employees for Jury Service

Jury service is an important constitutional institution in New Zealand. Likewise, employment law protects employees when they are away on jury duty. As an employer, you owe certain obligations to employees who must be absent from work to serve jury duty. 

One obligation is to protect an employee’s job while they attend jury service. You must allow an employee to attend jury service and cannot pressure them not to attend court. 

You also cannot threaten to dismiss an employee or otherwise threaten their position for attending jury service, no matter the length of the case the employee is serving. Likewise, you cannot require an employee to use annual leave to cover their period away. If you breach any of these obligations, the consequences can be extremely serious. You face conviction and may receive a fine of up to $10,000. Further, your employee could also bring a personal grievance.

How Does Payment Work During Jury Service Work?

Employers do not have to pay employees while they are away on jury service. People who attend jury service do receive a small attendance fee from the Ministry of Justice. However, this fee usually does not cover an employee’s usual wages or salary. Likewise, many employers choose to top up the payments from the Ministry of Justice. 

It is generally best practice to ensure that employees receive their normal pay while away on jury service. Your business’ policy or employment agreement should cover this payment. This is because your employee is not taking a holiday when they are away on jury service, but performing an important (and often difficult) duty for the benefit of New Zealand. Ensuring they receive their usual pay helps support the employee and the broader civil institution of jury service. 

Key Takeaways

Jury service is an important civic duty for New Zealanders. Accordingly, there are employment protections for employees when they are serving their jury duty. As an employer, you cannot dismiss or punish an employee for being away on jury service. Likewise, you cannot pressure them not to turn up or take annual leave while they are away. If you want to know more about jury service and your obligations to your employees serving on a jury, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is jury service?

Jury service is where New Zealanders are randomly selected (via a ‘summons’ in the mail) to attend court. Once at court, attendees are randomly selected to sit on different juries for separate cases. These cases can range from minor civil cases to major criminal offences. Likewise, the time commitment for jury members can accordingly range between hours to weeks. 

Do employers have to pay employees on jury service?

No, employers are not under a legal obligation to pay employees while they are away on jury service. However, many employers do so as an act of good faith towards the employee. Likewise, providing payment for jury service recognises its importance as a civil institution.

What other obligations do employers have towards employees on jury service?

Employers must allow their employees to attend jury service if they receive a summons and cannot punish an employee from being away from their job for jury service.  Doing so is a serious offence in New Zealand. Employers also cannot put pressure on employees to use their annual leave or other leave to cover the period of time they are away while sitting on a jury.

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