As seemingly unavoidable as vacuous reality TV stars, policemen younger than yourself, the onset of winter, taxation and death, jury service can strike at any time and cause a certain level of inconvenience.
Jury service is something which usually comes along just once in a lifetime, and results in taking some involuntary time off work.
So you swap your comfy black leather office swivel chair for a bench, exchange your favourite coffee for slightly more suspect coffee from a machine and instead of flippant conversations by the watercooler you are engaged in far more serious discussions which will shape someone’s foreseeable life. No biggie then.
One of the outstanding questions for homeowners facing up to the unpredicted prospect of being called up to jury service is just how it will affect your existing home insurance policy? Many thousands of people (approximately 178,000 people in England and Wales according to the latest stats) are summoned to sit on a jury comprised of a cross-section of society each and every year, yet a significant number of these people routinely explain that they’re often left financially out of pocket as a direct result of undertaking this largely unavoidable duty.
Despite normal jury service here in the UK said to last an average of 10 consecutive days, in many instances where the case they might be running the rule over is described as more complex this period could extend well beyond that initial and somewhat conservative estimate. And the thing is not all of those people chosen to complete a stint doing jury service will be compensated for their time/potential loss of earnings.
While some employers recognise jury service as being a legit reason for an employee to skip work for a loosely-defined and agreed period (and either cover this or suggest the staff member uses a percentage of their holiday entitlement), others aren’t so considerate or charitable.
A recent study by one leading UK home insurance provider discovered that 1 in 20 employers fail to compensate employees whilst they’re on jury service, although most offer something.
Yet one third of firms will cease payments should their call-up extend beyond 5 days, with 11% refusing to pay-out after the first day.
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And when you factor in that on occasions a juror could be present in court for a trial which lasts 6 months, projected loss of earnings could be substantial. Not least because that same research pointed to a figure of just 12% of companies admitting that they’d continue to cover a staff member for that length of time.
Then there’s the hundreds of thousands of self-employed, freelance or contract workers, with no apparent monetary redress. Chunks of missed work opportunities and consequent income stream shortfalls such as this could have severe fiscal implications on the household budget.
That said, there are a few specialist – and it’s fair to say, very niche – insurance products for contractors on the current market which provide a safeguard of sorts against the risk of salary loss during participation in jury service to look out for. One such dedicated broker, Qdos Contractor, offers a unique insurance plan which covers both jury service and legal protection from £66 a year, and is aimed at self-employed white collar contractors primarily.
Essentially this covers any periods when the policyholder is obliged to be in court and where the cost is unrecoverable from the Government (more of which in a sec) up to a figure of £500 per day.
Although bear in mind that there’s a long-established recompense protocol in place for those attending jury service – whereby loss of earnings will historically be compensated for to the tune of £52.63 per day for the first 10 days and £105.28 for every day thereafter (whilst a cap of £64.95 per day on a day when the stint is over four hours, £32.47 if it is less is in operation), along with reasonable travel expenses, food and drink provisions and childminding costs – for those used to earning in excess of this amount there will obviously be a financial shortfall which might well be increasingly difficult to recover from in the short to medium term.
However what many people, homeowners especially, might not be aware of is that monetary help could be available from an unlikely source. Surprisingly, courtesy of your existing home insurance policy.
Embedded (sometimes deeply, in other instances, less so) in many household insurance documents you’ll find a legal protection provision which helps policyholders remain financially solvent if and when they’re requested to complete a spell of jury service.
Effectively this will offer many people a degree of financial cover in the event of their incomes being compromised by the knock-on effect of jury service call-ups.
If they’re unable to recoup the full amount from either the court/Government or their employer (providing they aren’t self-employed), then a number of UK home insurance companies will step up to the table and put their money where their mouth is.
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Beware though, in order to instigate this and to file a claim it’s crucial that the claimant/policyholder can prove their jury service attendance, disclose any allowances they’ve received from the courts as well as declaring their normal salary to make sure everything adds up and is above board from their perspective.
Generally-speaking any home insurance policy which makes allowances (via standard practice special features/benefits or flagged up as extra/advanced home insurance options at the point of signature) for jury service will do so in the capacity of paying-out a maximum of net salary or wages for the precise passage of time the juror is absent from their normal place of employment – less any financial support/compensation received from the court.
In the majority of cases, home insurers will protect to a financial limit of £50 per day, to a maximum of £2,000, however they habitually exclude cover for the first 7 days due to the aforementioned court/Government protocol in place which allows for the initial shortfall to be reclaimed by alternative means.
At the end of the day this little-known provision could really make a huge difference, especially to those of a self-employed status. In one particular instance a freelance lawyer who sat on a jury service panel for 8 days received over £5,000 from their specially-tailored home insurance policy in relation to a lost wages claim.