Employing a magistrate

The skills acquired by magistrates can be of great benefit to employers


"In supporting employees to sit as magistrates, employers are not only making an invaluable contribution to the community, they are also investing in their employees’ training and skills development. That is, employees when sitting as a Magistrate gain experience in areas such as critical analysis, teamwork and conflict resolution: skills that can be usefully transferred to the workplace.”

Lady Justice Julia Macur DBE
Former Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales

What do I need to know about employing a magistrate?

Magistrates (also known as Justices of the Peace) are unpaid volunteers who hear cases in court in their local community. They receive special training to sit in either the criminal or family court and make fair and reasonable decisions. Read more about magistrates here.

Magistrates are required to sit for a minimum of 26 half days (13 full days) a year. Magistrates should come from the communities they sit in, and to achieve a diverse magistracy it is important that employers support staff to fulfil this public duty. Court business takes place during working hours and as an employer you are legally obliged to give an employee time off from work to sit as a magistrate. Many employers give leave for court duties without loss of pay; however it is appreciated that this is not always possible.

What does the law say about employing a magistrate?

Section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 states that ‘An employer shall permit an employee of his who is a justice of the peace to take time off during the employee’s working hours for the purpose of performing any of the duties of the office’.

The amount of time an employee is permitted to take and the circumstances in which this time is taken must be considered by the employer to be reasonable with regard to:

  • How much time off is required for the performance of the duties of the office
  • The circumstances of the employer’s business and the effect of the employee’s absence on the running of that business

What transferable skills will a magistrate bring to an organisation?

Supporting your employee to fulfil their duties as a magistrate is an innovative way of supporting staff development. Being a magistrate offers employees new learning opportunities and a focus beyond work as well as an increased understanding of local issues. Through both their training and their service magistrates will acquire transferable skills that will be valuable to the workplace including:

  • Critical analysis
  • Decision-making
  • Giving and receiving constructive feedback
  • Conflict resolution
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Time management

Some skills will be specific to which court the magistrate sits in. Additional skills may be acquired if they choose to take on additional roles eg as a presiding justice or a mentor.

How does employing a magistrate contribute to the community?

Magistrates are a cornerstone of the justice system of England and Wales, which depends on local people volunteering for this role. Enabling employees to fulfil this important public duty is a valuable way of giving back to the local community and prioritising Corporate Social Responsibility.

Magistrates play a key role in the delivery of safer communities; in the criminal court, magistrates deal with many types of crime that impact most on the day to day lives of the public including antisocial behaviour, burglary and car crime.

By supporting your employees to sit as magistrates, you are fostering a workforce that is aware of local issues as well as building your reputation through involvement in, and commitment to, the communities in which your employees and customers live and work.

How can I support my employees to be magistrates?

Employers should review their public duty policy and make specific reference to magistrates with guidelines on the number of days leave (paid and unpaid) permitted. There are a number of ways in which employers can support their employees to be magistrates:

  • Provide paid leave for public duties
  • Adopt flexible working
  • Foster a culture that encourages and values volunteering
  • Recognise the value of the magistracy and demonstrate support internally

Employers who have made a significant contribution to the magistracy by supporting their employees may be nominated for the MA’s annual Employer of the Year Award.

Employer of the Year Award

Each year the MA presents the ‘Employer of the Year Award’ to an employer that has made significant contributions to supporting their magistrate employees. In 2019 the MA were pleased to present the award to British Airways at an awards dinner in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Harry Callaghan JP, who nominated British Airways for this award, said:

‘Working as long haul aircrew, I spend 50% of the year overseas, so naturally my time off and days at home are precious to me. I am indebted to my employer for their pragmatic approach that supports me to fulfil my duties as a magistrate. British Airways proactively works around my court schedule, providing two extra paid days per calendar month in order for me to sit as a magistrate. There are no restrictions or blocked days, giving me maximum flexibility as I serve my community. I am delighted that the vital contribution British Airways makes to the magistracy has been acknowledged with this reward.’

If you are an employer and are interested in working with the MA to promote routes into the magistracy, please get in touch with the membership team.