A guide to jury service for the self-employed

Customisable business insurance
25 August 2023
7 minute read

If you've been called to sit on a jury, you'll probably have a lot of questions. And if you're a freelancer or run your own business, some of your most pressing concerns are likely to involve your finances and what will happen to your business while you’re in court.

So here, we answer some common questions about jury duty while you’re self-employed:

What is jury service?

Jury service, also known as jury duty, is a key part of the UK’s criminal justice system.

When someone is accused of a serious offence, they have a legal right to be tried by a jury made up of members of the public. This is intended to ensure that any verdict is fair and unbiased.

If you’re called for jury duty, you’ll normally decide the outcome of a criminal trial. The jury’s job is to determine whether someone is guilty or not guilty.

Juries are very occasionally used in civil trials. In these rare instances, the jury must decide whether or not the claimant has proved their case. And if they establish that the claimant has won, they decide what damages are awarded.

In England and Wales, there are typically 12 people on a jury – but civil cases heard at a county court have only eight jurors. In Scotland, there are 15 jurors for criminal trials and 12 for civil trials.

How are people chosen for jury service?

As set out by the Juries Act 1974, to qualify for jury duty, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be on the electoral register
  • Have lived in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least five years since you were 13.

Names are randomly chosen from the electoral register by a computer at a central office. If your name is chosen, you’ll be sent a jury summons in the post.

According to the BBC, the odds of being called for jury service in England or Wales are around 35%. In Scotland, the odds are much higher at approximately 95%.

Can I get out of jury service because I'm self-employed?

In short, no. You can only be excused from jury duty for a few exceptional reasons – and being self-employed isn’t one of them.

You can ask to be excused from jury service if:

  • You have a serious illness or disability that prevents you from being a juror
  • You’re a full time carer of someone with an illness or disability
  • You’re a new parent and can’t do jury service at any other time in the next 12 months
  • You’ve recently been on a jury (the cut-off point is two years in England and Wales, and five in Scotland)
  • You're over a certain age (71 in Scotland, 70 in Northern Ireland).

You may be able to defer jury service to another date within the next 12 months. You can only ask to change the date once, and you’ll need a good reason such as:

  • You have a holiday booked
  • You’re having an operation
  • You’re sitting an exam.

You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t turn up for jury service or reply to your jury summons – so even if jury duty is likely to impact your business or income, it’s important that you follow the proper procedures.

How long does jury service last?

Jury service normally lasts ten working days. Throughout these two weeks, you’ll usually need to be at court 10am-5:30pm from Monday to Friday.

If a trial lasts longer than ten days, you’ll need to remain on the jury to hear all the evidence in its entirety. The UK’s longest-serving jurors spent over 20 months in a courtroom.

If the trial is shorter than ten days, you can be asked to sit on a jury for other trials.

What expenses can I claim while doing jury service?

The bad news: you don’t get paid for doing jury duty. The better news? You can claim some expenses to cover additional costs and loss of earnings – up to a certain amount.

Expenses for travel

The amount you can claim depends on the transport you'll use to get to court.

How you get to court You can claim
Bus or underground Cost of the ticket
Train Cost of a standard class return ticket
Bike 9.6p per mile
Motorbike 31.4p per mile
Car 31.4p per mile
Plus 4.2p per mile for one other juror as a passenger
Plus 3.2p per mile for each additional passenger
Taxi The fare

Make sure you get the court's permission before taking a taxi. And if you plan on driving, check whether the court will pay for parking.

Expenses for food and drink

The amount you can claim depends on how many hours you spend in court each day.

Time spent in court You can claim
Up to 10 hours a day £5.71 per day
More than 10 hours a day £12.17 per day

Expenses for loss of earnings and additional care costs

Many employers pay their staff while they're doing jury service, but if you're self-employed, you're likely to lose money by postponing work or dropping out of jobs.

You may also incur extra costs for childcare or the care of elderly or vulnerable adults on the days you serve as a juror.

The court can cover a certain amount of lost earnings and additional care costs, and the exact amount depends on how many hours you spend in court each day, as well as the length of the trial. You can't claim back costs you normally pay for care.

Time frame Time spent in court You can claim up to
First ten days Less than four hours a day £32.47 per day
More than four hours a day £64.95 per day
After the first ten days Less than four hours a day £64.95 per day
More than four hours a day £129.91 per day

How do I claim back expenses for jury service?

Usually, you can claim expenses once your jury service has come to an end. But if the trial is expected to take a long time, or if you face financial hardship, you may be able to get your expenses paid while the trial is still on going.

You'll need to submit a few different forms and provide evidence for each type of expense you wish to claim, and you’ll usually be paid seven to 10 working days after you've submitted the relevant documents.

Claiming food, drink and travel expenses

You'll be given a form at the start of jury service. You'll need to return it to the court along with any relevant receipts.

Claiming for lost earnings

You'll need to download Form 5223F and return it along with one of the following:

  • Your most recent tax return showing your annual income
  • A letter from your accountant confirming your average daily gross earnings, as well as evidence from HMRC showing that you're registered as self-employed and have a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number
  • A letter from a company that you've turned down work for due to jury service.

Claiming for care costs

You'll need to download Form 5223B and return it along with both:

  • Evidence of the costs incurred, such as invoices or receipts
  • Proof of identity of the person being cared for, such as a birth certificate or passport.

Does business insurance cover jury service?

Business insurance can provide a lifeline when the unexpected happens. And Superscript's legal protection insurance can offer financial support if you end up on a jury.

Although it won't pay for dividends or jobs that you've had to turn down, it can cover your salary or wages for the days you spend in court – giving you one less thing to worry about while you perform your civic duty.

And if you ever find yourself caught up in a legal dispute of your own, it can provide professional advice and cover your expenses.

What other resources are available to self-employed jurors?

If you've got additional questions about jury service, the government's website is a good place to start. It covers extra topics such as what happens when you get to court and rules on discussing the trial.

Citizens Advice has plenty of Scotland-specific information, while NI Direct has information for citizens of Northern Ireland.

And if you're a member of a trade body or professional organisation, it's worth looking into whether your membership gives you access to any support or benefits related to jury duty.

This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.

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