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Employing a magistrate

The skills acquired by magistrates can be of great benefit to employers—find out about employing a magistrate and how to support your employees to become magistrates.

Magistrates are unpaid volunteers who hear cases in court in their local community. They 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.

The law and employing magistrates

Section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 states: “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.

Employers will need to consider:

  • 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.

Benefits of employing a magistrate

Supporting your employee to fulfil their duties as a magistrate is an innovative way of promoting 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 acquire several valuable transferable skills such as:

  • critical analysis
  • decision-making
  • giving and receiving constructive feedback
  • conflict resolution
  • teamwork
  • communication
  • time management.

Some skills are specific to the court a magistrate sits in. Additional skills may also be acquired if a magistrate chooses to take on additional roles, for example as a presiding justice or a mentor.

Contributing 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.

Supporting your employees

Employers can support their employees to be magistrates by:

  • providing paid leave for public duties
  • adopting flexible working
  • fostering a culture that encourages and values volunteering
  • recognising the value of the magistracy and demonstrating support internally.

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.

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.

Promoting the magistracy

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