Employment & Labour

Jury duty and leave of absence

By Stuart Rudner

Like it or not, as a Canadian citizen, you are expected to serve jury duty when summoned by your jurisdiction’s courthouse. And as an employer, some of your staff may be absent for that reason. While this is your civic duty, there still exists some air of uncertainty about the subject matter when it comes to work leave for jury duty. Paid vs. unpaid leave, permitted vs. unpermitted leave – these are the most common questions that Canadian citizens face in their workplace when summoned for jury duty.

To provide some clarity on the subject, this article will cover some of the basics of Canadian jury duty, the reality of paid leave for jury duty and the requirement of a permitted leave of absence for employers.

Canadian jury duty basics

Under the Juries Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. J.3, a Canadian citizen or resident of Ontario for the past year that is at least 18 years of age is “eligible and liable to serve as a juror” in the county court where the individual resides.

However, there are exceptions to this requirement and some individuals are actually ineligible to serve on a jury. Some examples of this are: such as individuals that are members of certain political offices, individuals in the legal profession, individuals in law enforcement and some individuals in the medical and veterinary professions. Additionally, if you have participated in jury duty in the three years immediately preceding a new summons, you are ineligible to serve jury duty again.

From a procedural standpoint, anyone summoned for jury duty will receive a notice in the mail. You are expected to report to the courthouse at the dates and times listed. To make sure you are not caught off guard, know that you may be looking at a lengthy service of jury duty if the case at hand takes longer than you might imagine.

Paid leave requirements

In general, individuals that are summoned will have to report for jury duty on a weekday during normal courthouse hours. In many instances, this will conflict with the work schedule of the average Canadian in the workforce. Due to this, there is a common myth that jurors are entitled to paid leave for jury duty by their employers. The term “myth” is important here as it is simply not the case.

Unless previously agreed to under contract, employees are generally not entitled to compensation for jury duty by their employer. While some courthouses may compensate jurors a marginal amount, jurors generally do not have a means of restitution for unpaid hours under law.

However, employees are generally protected to take leave for jury duty if they intend to participate in the summoned jury duty.

Permitted leave requirements

While an employee may not get compensated by their employer, unless previously agreed to, employees can rely on the grounds that employers are not generally allowed to make it unreasonably burdensome for the employee to take time off. With the amount of advance notice jurors generally get, an employee and employer should have ample time to cover for the employee while he or she is out of the office.

However, if the attendance of a summoned juror causes a hardship on the juror, the juror can often be excused from duty. There are special circumstances and procedures to be excused from jury duty, so make sure you contact the courthouse right away to get the process started on a proper excuse.

Overall, it is important for employees and employers to understand the basics of jury duty requirements as they pertain to time off from work. We can help employees to understand that they have some rights, albeit limited, that will prevent an employer from restraining you when it comes to serving your civic duty as a Canadian. Like it or not, jury duty is a serious part of living in Canada and should be handled appropriately. At the same time, we can work with employers to ensure they understand their rights and obligations.

If you find yourself in a controversial situation with an employer regarding jury duty leave, reach out to our team for a consultation regarding your particular work situation.

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