Taking the right approach to employee suspension

Added On: 2nd November 2017

Taking the right approach to employee suspension

Employers will often consider whether an employee should be suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations against them. In deciding whether to so, a number of factors should be considered, including:

Is there an alternative to suspension?

There is a term implied into all contracts of employment that an employer will only exercise the right to suspend in circumstances in which it is reasonable. The employer must have reasonable grounds for the suspension, and ensure that the period of suspension is no longer than needed.

Dependent on the circumstances it might be possible to avoid suspension by (for example) employing the individual elsewhere in the business on a temporary basis.

Does their continuing attendance at work create risks?

However, where the employee’s continuing present may pose a significant risk to others or to the business, or there may be a risk of them interfering with the investigation, suspension is likely to be a reasonable option to take.

Pay and benefits during suspension

In the vast majority of cases, staff are entitled to be paid (and continue to receive benefits) for the duration of the suspension. Unless there is a clear contractual term in place allowing for an employee to be suspended without pay, employers do not automatically have the right to withhold pay, and doing so could result in them facing breach of contract and/or unlawful deduction from wages claims.

Suspension is a neutral act, which means employees retain all of their employment rights. In relation to employee benefits such as private use of a mobile phone or car, taking these away may result in a breach of contract.

How long should suspension be for?

Any period of suspension should be reasonable, as brief as possible and kept under constant review. Employees should be suspended for no longer than is absolutely necessary. They should be kept updated on the terms of the suspension, and a point of contact should be provided.

There are horror stories of employees being suspended for months on end without any apparent justification or explanation. On at least one occasion I have been involved in, this has resulted in a successful constructive dismissal claim.