Employees who volunteer as magistrates prove good for business

With new government data showing seven million people took part involunteering between 2021-22*, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is calling on more employers to join the hundreds who are already feeling the business boost and encourage staff to volunteer as magistrates.

Over 12,000 magistrates currently volunteer across England and Wales and are developing transferrable skills such as critical analysis, complex problem solving and mediation. And according to MoJ research,** 55% of decision-making employers think employees who also serve as magistrates will develop better soft or professional skills.

In fact, HR and business leaders report the top qualities of their staff, who are magistrates, as having sound judgement (89%) and effective decision-making skills (81%).

Supporting staff to volunteer can also boost recruitment. Evidence suggests people are more likely to want to work for organisations that give back to society.

Furthermore, having a magistrate as an employee offers organisations the win-win of attracting and retaining talent. Nearly one in ten volunteers recognise it as a way to ‘get on in their career’, so employer support is likely to be welcomed.

Pam Sheemar, a magistrate and NatWest employee, said: “_I am passionate about being a magistrate as it is important for the court system to reflect the communities and people it serves. I have never looked back after six years of service and would encourage anyone who wants to support their community to get involved_.”

While 84% of business decision-makers would be generally supportive if an employee wanted to be a magistrate, research from the MoJ suggests some employers may need more awareness of how volunteering as a magistrate will impact their business. Only 66% of decision-makers said they knew what a magistrate is and does, and 56% were unaware that magistrates only need to be in court 13 days a year.

In reality, many magistrates fulfil this crucial role alongside full-time employment and caring responsibilities.

Through targeted marketing, the MoJ and the Judiciary aim to put a spotlight on the role of a magistrate and attract 4,000 new volunteers across England and Wales. This recruitment drive is the largest in the history of the magistracy.

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, said: “Magistrates play a vital role in our justice system and develop a range of skills when undertaking training and making important court decisions that are invaluable in the workplace.

“They bring these to bear for their employers, bringing significant benefits to the businesses they work for.”

Employers, by law, must allow an employee who is a magistrate reasonable time off work to carry out their duties. Volunteering staff will have to be in court at least 13 days, or 26 half-days a year, but since a judicial rota is provided well in advance, there will be plenty of time to plan and agree on time off.

While employers are not required to pay employees for their magistrate work, many choose to. However, magistrates not being paid by their employers can claim an allowance from a court for loss of earnings.

Dipesh Mistry, Chair of the NatWest Midlands and East Regional Board, said: “NatWest is committed to supporting and giving back to the communities we operate in.

“The Ministry of Justice’s recruitment drive and the qualities they are looking for in people who will become great magistrates align with our values as an organisation to be inclusive, curious and robust.

“By encouraging our employees to volunteer as magistrates, not only are they creating positive change for their community and reflecting our values, but they are able to build skills which benefit our business such as decision making and teamwork.”

Volunteering as a magistrate is open to most of the workforce. No legal qualifications or experience is required, and an individual’s level of education is no barrier. Anyone aged between 18 and 74 that wants to challenge themself, develop new skills and create positive change for the good of their community can be a magistrate.

Volunteers will work closely with two other magistrates and a legal advisor, who offers guidance on the law. Vacancies in many regions are now open. Anyone wanting to apply, or to be notified when a vacancy opens in their region, should visit the magistrate recruitment site [2] for more information.

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