Can we suspend our employee?

The answer can be complicated. If you are contemplating suspending an employee, here is what you need to know.

What are the risks?

Suspension should not be your default setting. It could be difficult for your employee to return to the workplace after being suspended.

  • It’s important that you aren’t seen to be prejudging the outcome of an investigation into your employee’s misconduct.
  • Suspension is not a neutral act. If you are unclear about who is to blame for the alleged misconduct, suspending a particular staff member could indicate that your outcome has been prejudged.
  • If there isn’t a right to suspend the employee in their contract of employment, doing so could be a breach of contract as the employee has an implied right to work.
  • Even where suspension is permitted, you could breach trust and confidence if you suspend an employee without reasonable grounds.

When is it appropriate to suspend an employee?

Suspension may be appropriate where there is reasonable and proper cause, most commonly under the following circumstances:

  • where there is a potential threat to your business or other employees
  • where it is not possible to properly investigate the allegations if an employee remains at work (for example, because they may attempt to influence witnesses or destroy evidence)
  • where relationships at work have broken down such that colleagues cannot continue to work together

In any event, consider whether there are any alternatives to suspension before suspending an employee.

How should an employer suspend an employee?

If suspension is the only option, you should ensure that:

  • any period of suspension is as short as possible.
  • your decision to suspend is kept under review.
  • you consider what to tell colleagues and clients about the suspension.
  • you inform them in writing as soon as possible that they have been suspended, explaining your reason, and stating that it does not mean that they have done anything wrong.
  • your policy on suspension is applied consistently to avoid any breach of contract or any argument that you have discriminated against an employee with a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and
  • under most circumstances, the employee receives full pay and benefits during their suspension.

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