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Payment for Jury Service

In Plain English

  • There is no legal obligation to pay an employee for time on jury service.
  • However, some employers see this as part of their social or community obligations.
  • Many employers do pay their employees to attend jury service, or at least top up the difference between jury fees paid to the employee and their normal pay.

An employer recently found himself held in contempt of Court for not paying an employee to attend jury service. When challenged in the High Court, the District Court agreed that the employer should not have been held in contempt because the Judge had got the law wrong.

Whangarei and Kamo Testing Ltd employed Tracy Findlay as its office manager.

In late February 2001, Ms Findlay was summoned to appear as a juror for a District Court trial. Her boss, Harry Clyde, applied to have her excused, but was declined.

Ms Findlay applied to have her excusal placed before a judge. In her letter to the Judge, she claimed that Mr Clyde had advised her that she would not be paid for attending jury service and that, as a result, she would suffer financial hardship.

Upon receiving her application, the Judge excused Ms Findlay from jury service. He then directed that Mr Clyde attend Court to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of Court for preventing his employee from performing jury service.

It was "incumbent on employers to avoid imposing a direct or indirect financial penalty on their employees when they were summonsed to serve on juries and it may amount to a contempt of Court for an employer to impose such a penalty" the Judge said.

Mr Clyde attended Court and told the Judge that he had never paid staff for attending jury service in the past and that he understood, based on a booklet published by the Employers Institute, that he was under no legal obligation to do so.

The Judge found Mr Clyde to be in contempt of Court, but did not impose any penalty because Mr Clyde had relied on the advice contained in the booklet. "Nevertheless I consider that the advice contained in the booklet placed before me today is inappropriate and that all employers ought not only to encourage their employees to attend jury service when summonsed but should ensure that those persons suffer no financial penalty by so doing. It is after all only because of the maintenance of the rule of law that companies can continue to operate in this country, with all of the benefits that a strong framework of law provides" the Judge said.

Mr Clyde challenged the Judge's ruling in the High Court. In an unusual move, the District Court agreed that the Judge's ruling be set aside as it was "invalid by reason of mistake of law." The District Court also agreed to pay Mr Clyde's legal costs of $2,720.

Jury fee rise considered

10.10.2001

The Government is still considering whether to boost payments to jurors to improve their attendance at court.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Phil Goff said yesterday that the financial implications of increasing the payments were under discussion, along with several options for making jury service more attractive.

A Law Commission report published in March recommended better payments for jurors, to help stem the large number failing to show up or excused because of financial hardship.

Jurors get $50 a day for the first week of a trial and $70 a day thereafter. They are also eligible for a travel allowance of 38 cents a kilometre if there is no public transport within 3km of their home.

The Law Commission report recommended that, while a flat fee should remain, it should be at a higher rate and registrars should have the discretion to pay the value of lost wages in special cases. Travel costs should also be reimbursed in full.

Former law commissioner Tim Brewer, who headed the review, said yesterday that financial hardship was a significant factor in jurors failing to attend.

He said: "We had one letter written to us by a very disgruntled middle manager who said he had turned up for jury duty, had taken the time off work and ended up spending half the day in court and not been called on to a jury.

"He said he looked up the maximum fine for not attending, and said the next time he got summoned, he would just send in a cheque."

The maximum fine for failing to attend is $300, but the Government proposes increasing this to $1000.

It is also implementing another part of the Law Commission report that would allow majority, rather than unanimous, decisions in certain cases.

- NZPA

Staff must be paid for jury duty warns judge

02.05.2001 2.38 pm

Employers who refuse to pay staff called for jury service may be held in contempt of court and fined, a Whangarei District Court judge has warned.

Judge Arthur Tompkins also criticised an Employers' Institute booklet advising employers they had no legal obligation to pay staff serving on juries.

The judge yesterday summonsed the owner of Whangarei and Kamo Vehicle Testing, Harry Clyde, to explain his policy of not paying staff who took time off to be jurors after one of his employees asked to be excused from jury service because she would not be paid.

Defence lawyer John Day said Mr Clyde's policy had been in place for more than 10 years and was made on the basis that the testing station had an obligation to the road-using public to ensure vehicles were roadworthy.

The woman called for jury service had responsibilities at work not easily duplicated.

"He very much regrets and ... apologises to the court for any view that he's attempted to hijack the jury system," Mr Day said.

Mr Clyde took support for his policy from an Employers' Institute manual that advised there was no legal obligation to pay employees for their time on jury service.

However, the manual also noted that many employers saw allowing jury service as part of their social or community obligation.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

Employers must pay staff on jury duty judge warns

03.05.2001

Employers who refuse to pay staff called for jury service may be held in contempt of court and fined, a Whangarei District Court judge has warned.

Judge Arthur Tompkins also criticised an Employers' Institute booklet advising employers they had no legal obligation to pay staff serving on juries.

The judge yesterday summonsed the owner of Whangarei and Kamo Vehicle Testing, Harry Clyde, to explain his policy of not paying staff who took time off to be jurors.

The case resulted after one of Mr Clyde's employees asked to be excused from jury service because she would not be paid.

Defence lawyer John Day said Mr Clyde's policy had been in place for more than 10 years and was made on the basis that the testing station had an obligation to the road-using public to ensure vehicles were roadworthy. The woman called for jury service had responsibilities not easily duplicated.

Mr Clyde took support for his policy from the Employers' Institute manual.

However, the manual also noted that many employers saw allowing jury service as part of their social or community obligation.

Judge Tompkins expressed concern at Mr Clyde's policy. "In my view it is incumbent on employers to avoid imposing direct or indirect financial penalty when employees are summonsed to serve and it may amount to a contempt of court for any employer to impose such a penalty," he said.

Judge Tompkins imposed no penalty and said Mr Clyde had not wilfully sought to challenge the integrity of the jury system.

- NZPA

Employer demands apology from judge

03.05.2001 1.47 pm

A public apology is being demanded from a Whangarei District Court judge who criticised an employer for refusing to pay staff serving on juries.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association today threw its weight behind businessman Harry Clyde, who was summonsed before Judge Arthur Tompkins on Tuesday to explain his "no-pay" policy.

Mr Clyde, from Whangarei and Kamo Vehicle Testing, told the judge the policy was in place because he had an obligation to the road-using public.

The staff member who sought to be excused from jury service could not easily be replaced.

EMA Northland manager Murray Broadbelt today said the way the judge dealt with Mr Clyde in open court was unacceptable.

"Judge Tompkins has no right to persecute an innocent employer for the court's failure to properly compensate for lost wages when employees attend jury service."

Mr Broadbelt said for smaller employers it could be a financial burden, especially when the employer had to pay for replacement staff as well.

Mr Broadbelt suggested the hearing on Tuesday afternoon was "nothing more than a publicity stunt" to promote a cause.

Mr Clyde, a member of the EMA, formed his policy after reading an Employers Institute booklet advising that he is not required to pay wages while staff attend jury service.

"Mr Clyde is clearly upset with the manner in which the judge went about publicising his concerns over the shortage of jurors to serve the courts," Mr Broadbelt said.

Mr Clyde was expecting a public apology from Judge Tompkins for causing him embarrassment, Mr Broadbelt said.

In court on Tuesday, Judge Tompkins warned that employers who penalised staff financially if they served as jurors could be held in contempt and fined up to $300.

He added that employers should not force staff to choose between being paid and fulfilling their social and community obligations.

Such pressure could undermine the integrity of the whole jury system, the judge said.

"All employers ought not only to encourage their employees to attend jury service when summonsed, but should ensure that this presents staff with no financial penalty by doing so," he said.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

Whangarei employer defiant in face of judge's criticism

04.05.2001 7.23 pm

A Whangarei businessman who refuses to pay staff on jury service was today remaining defiant in the face of a judge's criticism saying his stance would not change.

Harry Clyde, from Whangarei and Kamo Vehicle Testing, wants an apology from Judge Arthur Tompkins for taking him to task over his 'no pay' policy in the Whangarei District Court.

"I feel that my rights were violated. I thought we were going to have a (private) meeting and sort something out."

The policy would remain, he said. "I'm not reviewing it."

Mr Clyde said his 13 staff at two sites were fully supportive. "I pay my staff good money and really, I feel they can afford to go off on jury duty."

Judge Tompkins has declined to comment further on Mr Clyde's demand for an apology. In court on Tuesday, he warned employers that imposing a financial penalty on employees who were summonsed for jury service might amount to a contempt of court by the employer.

Mr Clyde today said he recognised staff might feel an obligation to serve as jurors but that did not mean his business had to support them.

Ironically, he said he would be prepared to serve as a juror himself if called. "I am replaceable," he said.

Mr Clyde could not remember if any of his staff had chosen to forgo pay and serve as a juror.

In the past 13 years he had received a jury summons at the rate of one every three months for staff, which he felt was too often.

Murray Broadbelt, from the Employers and Manufacturers Association in Northland, said the controversy had sparked numerous calls from other bosses who had not been aware of the jury pay issue.

The association supported Mr Clyde and if the judge tendered an apology it would end the matter.

Meanwhile, other Northland employers have no qualms about paying staff on jury service.

Northland Health, which employs 2000 people around the region, requires staff to take leave when called for jury service and their pay is reimbursed once they hand over any payment received from the court.

Spokesman Luke Worth said there were times staff sought to be excused because of workload or the nature of their role.

At the Marsden Pt refinery, workers are paid while on jury service.

NZ Refining Company general manager Alan Davey said: "We think that's part of our corporate citizenship. We do find it comes around surprisingly often."

The company would seek to have staff excused if their job was considered "critical" to the refinery operations, he added.

Kiwi Co-operative Dairy Co, which had about 450 workers at its Kauri and Maungatapere sites also paid staff while on jury service, provided that any jury fees were paid back to the company.

The Whangarei District Council encouraged its 280 employees to answer jury service and paid them at the normal rate.

Smaller businesses were also willing to pay staff. Craig Suester from Video Works said the issue had arisen only once in 14 years. That staff member served a week on a jury an was paid normal wages, he said.

At Whitcoulls, staff were paid normal wages while on jury service but manager Steve Hey said he would seek to have staff excused if the store was particularly busy.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

Boss sticks to no-pay stand

05.05.2001 By DANIEL JACKSON

Employers may not have to pay workers who are called up for jury service, following a run-in this week between a Northland businessman and a district court judge.

Harry Clyde, who employs 13 people at two vehicle-testing stations in Whangarei, is asking for an apology from Judge Arthur Tompkins after being called into open court to explain why he did not pay staff attending jury service.

This week Judge Tompkins considered imposing a fine for contempt of court on Mr Clyde in the Whangarei District Court because Mr Clyde told an employee he would not pay her while she was serving on a jury.

The employee had written and asked the court to be excused from service because it would place a financial hardship on her.

Judge Tompkins agreed to her request but called on Mr Clyde to explain.

In an oral ruling, Judge Tompkins decided against fining Mr Clyde "despite my view that I have the jurisdiction to do so."

He said the Juries Act did not expressly deal with the position "where an employer imposes what amounts to a financial penalty on an employee who seeks to fulfil their obligation."

But, in his view, it was "incumbent on employers to avoid imposing direct or indirect financial penalties on their employees when they are summonsed to serve on juries and it may amount to contempt of court for an employer to impose such a penalty."

Judge Tompkins considered as inappropriate advice Mr Clyde had quoted from a booklet which said he was not legally bound to pay employees serving on jury duty.

Employers should encourage staff to attend jury service because it was the maintenance of the rule of law which allowed companies to continue to operate, he said.

Mr Clyde told the Herald yesterday he wanted a public apology from Judge Tompkins.

"I thought we would just have a meeting but it was all in open court."

It had been his policy since 1988 not to pay staff while on jury duty. They had specific skills and replacing them while on jury duty for weeks at a time was difficult and expensive.

"It becomes a nightmare, especially when you are dealing with hundreds of customers per day."

His staff were paid well and should put money aside for performing jury duty or else the state should pay them, he said.

"It's not my responsibility."

Neither Judge Tompkins nor Chief District Court Judge Ron Young would comment yesterday as the ruling could yet be appealed.

Mr Clyde's claim that he is not legally obliged to pay staff serving on juries has been backed by two employers' organisations.

The Northland manager of the Employers and Manufacturers Association, Murray Broadbelt, said it was important Mr Clyde received an apology.

"We believe the judge embarrassed our member ... There is no substance that a judge can charge anyone with contempt of court for not paying an employee to go to jury service because there is no law that says you have to."

Jonathan Fairclough, the director of Employers' Assistance, the company that wrote the booklet Mr Clyde quoted in court, said his company suggested employers should pay employees for up to five days jury service but there was no legal obligation to do so.

"The law is very clear that employers don't have to pay, and why should employers fund the justice system?"

"I take issue that he [Mr Clyde] would be in contempt."

Mr Fairclough said most of his company's 15,000 clients did pay their employees while on jury service.

The Department for Courts pays jurors a daily allowance between $25 and $100 for the first five days of a trial - depending on the number of hours are in attendance. The daily fee increases on subsequent days.

The Whangarei District Court has had trouble attracting jurors in the past and last month Judge Tompkins fined a man $300 for refusing to serve on a jury.

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