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The costs of Jury service for self employed people and parents

March 22, 2016

2009-08-27Last Autumn I was called up to do jury duty for the first time.  In many ways I was quite excited.  I had taken some law courses at University (‘Criminology’ and ‘Punishment and Society’) so I had a bit of an academic interest, plus I am a nosy person so I like to know more about things and the world.  I would have loved to sit on a Jury and would have taken the whole thing very seriously, and I’m told the lawyers and the people on trial appreciate having a jury there and in particular jurors that take it seriously.  This is about real people’s lives after all and that should not be downplayed.  I also understand that there needs to be a selection process so that a fair and representative jury is chosen for each trial.  I would have felt that I had done my bit if I’d turned up but my name had not been called.

As it happens, I went along on a Tuesday and sat in a room of about 50 people for most of the day.  No trial was called, and we were sent home.  We were given the next day off but told to phone in to see if we’d be required again.  We were required again.  We then all came back on the Thursday and again sat for most of the day.  No trial was called, and we were sent home.  That was it.  We didn’t even get a welcome chat, let alone the ‘spectacle’ of the selection (I imagine some kind of Sorting Hat) or the actual Jury duty.

Heh.

So all in all it felt very frustrating and I felt like it incurred a lot of cost to me, particularly as a parent and as a self employed person.

Firstly there is the financial cost.

Financial costs as a self employed person

As a self employed person I was entitled to claim £65 (taxable income) per day that I was at the Jury Service.  This is less than I would usually earn in a day so technically I was not compensated for my time and it cost me money to do it in lost income.  Plus rather inconveniently they didn’t give me an itemised receipt with my compensation claim (which included items of income and expenditure) so that complicates things when it comes to my tax return and record keeping.

Financial costs as a parent

I am the primary carer for my 18 month old son, though he usually goes to a childminder three afternoons per week.  I am entitled to claim back the full cost of any childcare that is over and above what I usually pay for.  In my case I was lucky, my usual arrangement and the Jury Service required fortuitously meant that I could claim back childcare costs in full for the two days I was in Jury Service.  But if I’d been there for longer I would have had to pay for some of the childcare myself, and if I usually had my son in childcare full time I’d simply have had to fund it all myself.  That means that many working parents of pre-school children will be paying approx. £50/day in childcare to attend Jury Service, out of their own pocket.

Then there’s the emotional cost.

Emotional costs as a self employed person

I was sitting in the selection room for hours, twiddling my thumbs and reading a book, feeling edgy because I felt that my time could have been more productively spent servicing my contracts.

I had a client presentation in the diary for that week which had been set up two months previously and would be very difficult to rearrange.  So we left it in the diary and I updated my client every day that week, finally confirming at lunchtime of the day before that I could in fact do the presentation.  My client was extremely understanding about this.  But it isn’t within my personal definition of professional to inconvenience people like that.

I take on work based on the time I think I have available.  Jury service compromised this at short notice.  I had to work my ass off the fortnight before Jury Service to be sure I could get my contract work done within the time I thought I had when I agreed to do it.  As the time I was away could be a week or more, I needed to get a couple of weeks ahead.

Emotional costs as a parent

I was sitting in the selection room for hours, twiddling my thumbs and reading a book, feeling edgy because I felt that my time could have been more productively spent looking after my son.

I make a personal choice not to have my son in childcare for long days, or for full weeks.  I had to compromise this, albeit briefly.

I had to make a very flexible arrangement with my childminder that my son might or might not be with her for extra time for an undefined period, and I could only update her the day before on what might be needed.  My childminder was extremely understanding about this.  But it isn’t within my personal definition of helpful to inconvenience people like that.

Sorry to sound whingy, but I feel like in doing Jury Service there was a lot of cost to me.

Cost is fine, as long as there is benefit.  Was there benefit?  Well honestly, no not really.  I wasn’t made to feel like I’d done my bit.

But that’s not really the issue that I have with it.  The issue I have is that the cost isn’t equal for all jurors.

In any of the four jobs I had before I became self employed I’m fairly sure I would have been paid my usual salary to go along to Jury service.

And when I wasn’t a parent I could do whatever the hell I liked when I liked, so doing Jury Service would have been no real inconvenience.

I had to plan for a week or so of disruption and in actuality it only lasted 2/3 days.  I guess I was lucky.

But as a self employed person and as a parent of a pre-school child that was still a massive administrative hassle and a bit of an emotional burden.

Gah.  I wish I’d been called for Jury Service ten years ago!

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