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Ask a magistrate: Balancing employment with duties

Magistrates discussing in courtroom

Being a magistrate is a highly rewarding position where you can give back to your local community. We spoke with magistrates across the country to learn how they balance working life with their magistrate responsibilities. 

How do you balance volunteering as a magistrate with your job?

“My company fully supports the time I spend giving back to my local community. They provide me with paid leave to undertake my duties in court. They are able to see the benefits I bring to the company and community by sitting as a magistrate. Have an open and honest conversation with your employer and see how they are willing to support you.” – Aruj, Senior Product Manager

“I make sure I sit roughly once every 3 weeks as a maximum, which equates to one sitting every month, give or take. I do this to reduce the pressure on my employer to provide appropriate cover. I occasionally offer to take sittings at short notice, only when this coincides with less busy periods at work.” – Daniel, Business Manager

How did you approach the discussion with your employer?

“When I first approached my manager to ask for their support if I were to apply to become a magistrate (a crucial step you need to take), I was fortunate that my manager already knew the basics of what a magistrate is. I suggested some webpages they could look at to discover more about the role and employer responsibilities.

We agreed it would be a great opportunity for me to apply, and both felt it was something I could pursue whilst also managing my workload efficiently. I explained the minimum sitting requirements, and as my employer really champions volunteering and giving back, I was confident that this wasn’t going to be an issue in finding the time to commit.” – Anthony, Communications Manager

“I’m very fortunate in that my manager sits in the youth courts. She encourages magistrates from within the organisation. Magistrates learn a huge amount of social skills, as well as intellectual skills, debating skills, but also skills of balance and professionalism that come through the process of being in a magistrates’ court and all of those skills they take back to their work.” – Emir, Chartered Accountant

Do you have any advice for speaking to your employer about becoming a magistrate?

“Talk to your employer/manager. Are there opportunities to work flexibly to make time up to enable sittings. Does your employer have a policy that allows for paid time off (many large employers do).” Terry, Principal Payroll & HR Support Manager

“Don’t to be afraid to make clear to your employer how important a role you are performing and that you do so as a volunteer.” – Mark, Charitable Trust Trustee

“I’d suggest speaking to your manager in the first instance rather than keeping things bottled up; together you should be able to find a solution to whatever is concerning you. Encourage your employer to look at the Magistrates Association and Ministry of Justice websites – there’s plenty of information about how employing a magistrate can benefit an organisation, no matter how small.

Also, if you’re newly appointed, speak to your mentor – they’ll be knowledgeable about this and are there to support you. Alternatively, your bench chair is a great source of support – be sure to keep them in the loop if you’re struggling in any way.” – Anthony, Communications Manager

What skills have you developed as a magistrate that benefit you in the workplace?

“I’m learning so much being a magistrate. I’m learning how to articulate myself; I’m learning about the law, I’m learning about the legal system works, and I’m learning how to make decisions in the best interests of people. I’m taking that straight back with me to work, and to home, and to my friends, and to the people in my community.” – Khadija, Junior Doctor

“Being able to quickly read a lot of information and look for key points/facts and summarise information quickly. I think also working in a bench of three and being able to confidently put across my point, compromise, and know when to push something or leave it, has been helpful in challenging work situations.” – Alexa, Senior Governance Manager

“Listening and negotiation skills alongside a structured approach to dealing with problems.” – Carole, Customer Services Co-ordinator

“Confidence, teamwork and swift assimilation of key information from large volumes of documents. Above all, it has given me a broader perspective of society and the social problems that court users often have to manage in their lives.” – Lisa, Associate Lecturer

“My communication skills have vastly improved, I express myself more succinctly and clearly and have developed an awareness of the emotional context of any communication when addressing conflict between members of the team, being much more evidence-based when resolving disputes and being conscious of any assumptions I am making.” – Daniel, Business Manager

There is support available to help you to balance your duties as a magistrate with your employment. Resources are available to help you speak with your employer and make the most of your role.  

Guidance for employers to help you start the conversation is available.

Interested in becoming a magistrate?