So, you’re thinking about suspending an employee. Before you send them off on a paid holiday, it’s important to ensure suspension is the right way to go.
It’s a big deal being suspended. We say it’s a neutral act – but it sure doesn’t feel that way for the employee. So as employers we must have reasonable and proper justification to suspend, and the recent case of Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth is a good reminder of the importance of this!
The Golden Rule of Suspension
If you are considering suspending an employee, this is our golden rule: suspension should be a last resort, not a first step, and it should never be an automatic response to any disciplinary allegations.
Here’s a quick rundown of a few key things you should consider before suspending an employee:
1. Speak to the employee and any witnesses that were involved
These witnesses will have a perspective which will be an important consideration when you are weighing up whether it’s appropriate to suspend the employee or not.
2. Consider whether there has been a breakdown of relationships
Think whether as a result of that employee remaining within the business – there may be a risk of further disruption.
This disruption could be anything from further misconduct, harm to that employee or to other employees in the organisation, damaged company property or damaged company reputation.
3. Think carefully about the investigation that will follow
Could it be impacted by the employee remaining within the business? Is there a risk that witnesses may be interfered with, or that any evidence might be tampered with?
4. Consider appropriate alternative solutions
Alternatives to suspending an employee could be as simple as organising for the employee to work from home, another area in the office or even another office location.
If you do take the decision to suspend:
- Make sure that you refer to the employee’s contract of employment and employee handbook and ensure you comply with the agreed procedure
- Plan in advance, with the employee where possible, what you will say to colleagues/clients on a neutral basis
- Ensure that the employee is kept fully up to date throughout the suspension process, particularly if the investigation is taking longer than expected
- Review whether suspension remains appropriate on an ongoing basis
Suspension and Pay
We know that sometimes, especially when allegations are really serious, it can feel unwarranted to pay an employee whilst they are suspended. Generally, even when an employee faces serious allegations of misconduct they will be entitled to full pay for the duration of their suspension. Remember what we said earlier – suspension is a neutral act whilst an investigation is taking place, there must be no inference of guilt during that time and hence why pay is generally permitted.
In certain circumstances the contract of employment may state/have a provision that says you don’t need to pay an employee during a suspension. If you think this is the case for your organisation, be sure to check and double check before you make any big decisions.
If the employee is unable to work for the suspension, such as if they are sick – if they wouldn’t normally be receiving sick pay then they wouldn’t necessarily be entitled to their usual pay during suspension. So, a tricky one but weigh it up depending on your circumstances: generally, the position is full pay during suspension.
Getting the decision right is so important because suspension comes with a huge stigma, that can follow an employee around for their entire career, and if an employee does feel that their suspension isn’t justified, proper or reasonable – they can bring a claim for constructive dismissal.
We take a deeper dive into the subject of suspension in our latest employment law update where we cover the length of suspension, giving the employee a warning, what a suspension letter should include and how to bring a suspension to a close. If you’d like to receive it, let us know here.