Executive could be jailed for missing jury duty: Are business commitments an excuse?

A company chief financial officer faced court this week after not appearing at jury duty, with reports suggesting he could be facing jail time.

According to AAP, Powerwrap chief financial officer Sean Slattery appeared in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Wednesday after the Juries Commissioner made an application against him for penalties after he failed to attend jury duty last year.

Slattery has successfully deferred jury duty in May 2016, and applied for a deferral again when he was due to serve duty in October, however that application was knocked back.

Slattery reportedly told the court he was scheduled to meet with investors on the date of his duty, ahead of an initial public offering of his company. He faces a possible penalty of up to three months of imprisonment or $4000 in fines, reports AAP.

For many small business owners, the idea of leaving work to sit on a jury for weeks at a time is stressful, but what exactly do you have to think about if you get that letter?

The Fair Work Ombudsman and the courts both give general advice to businesses about rights and responsibilities when it comes to jury duty.

There are two things to consider: what you must do as an employer if staff are on jury duty, and what business owners need to communicate for a if they would like a potential exclusion or deferral.

If your staff are taking leave for jury duty

Full and part-time employees are able to take leave for jury duty and have employers make up the difference between the jury payment and the wage the staff member would usually receive for their work for serving on the jury for up to 10 days, according to advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Staff members do have to provide evidence that they got paid by the court for their service before employers have to make up the difference. Casuals don’t get covered by this set of rules automatically, but they might be covered by state employment legislation, so it’s worth double checking with the ombudsman.

Employers can provide letters on behalf of employees who are asking to defer or be excused from their service if work commitments would prevent someone from attending.

However, an employer cannot dismiss an employee for attending duty.

Nobody else can run my business – can I get out of jury duty? 

The websites for each state and territory court provide details on applying for a deferral or exemption from a call up for jury duty, which you will be directed to when notified that you have been called up to serve. 

There a number of reasons why someone might be excused from service, including if completing the duty would cause undue hardship to an individual or there is a conflict of interest that would stop someone being a juror. 

Each state and territory court provides individual details on whether they can be excused or postpone their service, and how. 

Being a sole contractor or working a small business is one potential reason that can be made in an application, according to Court Services Victoria.

However, just because you make an application to defer service does not mean it is granted. Individuals must apply before their summons date, and if the request is rejected you cannot refuse to show up on the date required.

More information on jury duty can be found here:  

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5 years ago

If you have a business that nobody else can run for a week or two, take a look at yourself. You never take a holiday, then? You trust nobody in your firm? You can not look around to hire a retired executive? Tell that to your family! They deserve better from you. You deserve to look after yourself better. Seems you are in Ostrich position?

Brett White
Brett White
5 years ago

Awesome business article!

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