Summoned in Service: How does jury service affect contractors?

Anybody can be summoned for jury service, no matter if you are permanently employed or contracting, and once summoned you are obliged by law to attend.

As jury service is a legal obligation for you, generally clients accept the absence whole-heartedly but if your work is time restrictive or the project will be adversely effected in a delay, your contract could, however unlikely, be cancelled. Luckily, you may be able to defer your jury service if you can reasonably prove to the summoning officer that you need to do so but you will only be able to do this once, so ensure it is necessary before going down this route.

When permanent employees are called for jury service, their employers will usually pay their usual wage as a benefit, although how much can vary with company policies as it is not an obligatory provision. This means that if you are operating via an umbrella company, you may be eligible for pay from them. You are also legally obliged to inform your umbrella company of any jury summons first, as they are technically your employer.

Travel and subsistence costs can be claimed from the courts for all who are summoned (limits apply) but for contractors and freelancers out on their own or umbrella company workers who have not got a full employment contract or any jury benefits, you can also claim from the courts for loss of earnings.

However, for many contractors this claim will still leave you significantly out of pocket. For example, the maximum daily amount for which you can claim for the first 10 days is £32.47 if your duty lasts four hours or less and £64.95 if it lasts for over four hours. Yet according to ContractorUK, the average daily rate for an IT Analyst, for example, is £350. This means that you would be out of pocket by a whopping 91% - 81.5% of your contract rate each day. The higher your earnings, the worse this gets (and vice versa). Jury service usually lasts up to 10 days, although it can be longer, so assuming our IT Analyst attended for a 10 day service for more than four hours a day and could not return to work in between, they would lose the alarming sum of £2850.50, assuming that their travel and subsistence costs were substantially covered by the claimable rates.

Fortunately, you can take out an income replacement policy to cover for such an event. Qdos Contractor’s Jury Service and Legal Protection policy includes cover for up to £500 per day at a maximum of £5000 should you be called for jury service. This means that the IT Analyst we used as an example above, would be covered for their entire jury service. The policy also includes cover for a variety of legal risks which may be applicable to contractors. You can find out more about this policy here.

By:Jane Hailstone

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