When potential employee misconduct comes to light, and an employer needs to find out what happened, it may decide to suspend one or more employees while it carries out an investigation.
However, employers should proceed with caution and avoid a knee-jerk reaction to suspend ‘as standard’.
Whilst it is generally accepted that ‘suspension’ is a neutral act, it does carry very negate connotations for the suspended employee. It can cause irreparable damage to the working relationship and could give rise to a claim by the employee. Every case needs to be assessed on its own circumstances, and unless specified to the contrary in the employment contract, suspension will nearly always be on full pay.
So when might an employer ‘need’ to suspend an employee. Well, in cases of suspected misconduct the employer may have legitimate concerns that
- the employee will destroy or tamper with evidence.
- The employee may take steps to intimidate or coach witnesses.
- The employer operates in a regulated or sensitive environment and the potential misconduct has cast doubts over the employees’ suitability to carry on their role.
- There are reasons to believe that the alleged misconduct might continue if the employee remains in the workplace,
If as an employer you consider it necessary to suspend an employee pending investigation into the alleged misconduct and/or disciplinary process, you should always notify the employee in writing that they have been suspended, and the reason why you considered it necessary to take this action. The suspension letter should also set out the ‘terms’ of suspension, as well as an indication as to how long it is anticipated the suspension will last.
Frequent reviews of the decision to suspend are recommended. The employees ongoing welfare must be taken into consideration and we would always recommend that a named person be allocated as a point of contact for the employee for the duration of the suspension.
Employers should give consideration to alternatives to suspension, such as reassigning the employee to alternative duties, or perhaps changing the employees reporting line.
If faced with a decision as to whether or not it is appropriate to suspend an employee, contact a member of our specialist employment team who will be able to advise.