Employee suspension - something to think about
Employment Law & HR Partner Nigel Crebbin highlights why employers should think carefully before suspending an employee pending a disciplinary hearing...
Often when an employer is faced with alleged misconduct by an employee, one of the first things they think about doing is suspending the employee from work, pending a disciplinary hearing. However, the key words here are ‘think about’.
Suspension should not be a knee-jerk reaction to alleged misconduct. It’s something you should think over carefully before deciding whether to act, especially where the employee has two years’ or more service and so has protection against unfair dismissal.
Rushing to suspend an accused employee could lead to them resigning from their employment and claiming they have been constructively dismissed and the question then will be whether you acted in breach of the employee’s contract of employment in choosing to suspend.
Implied into every employment contract is an obligation not to act in a way which is likely to damage or destroy the trust and confidence between employer and employee, unless you have good reason to do so. Suspending an employee from work, even if you describe that suspension as a ‘neutral act’ and even if you pay the employee while they are away from work, still can be very damaging to the employee, for example with regard to how they are perceived by their colleagues.
You therefore need to think carefully about whether suspension is a reasonable step. For example, do you need to suspend in order to protect your business or other members of staff or could the accused employee instead be moved onto different duties or other hours pending the disciplinary hearing?
Even if suspension is a reasonable step, it still needs to be carried out in a reasonable way. The employee should be told that suspension doesn’t mean that the outcome of their future disciplinary hearing has been pre-judged and the terms of the suspension should be made clear to the employee in writing. You should also keep the suspension under review and if there comes a time when you don’t reasonably need to continue with it, then the employee should be required to return to work.
Suspension is therefore not a step you should take lightly - better to pause and think, than to rush and regret.
About the author
Nigel is a Partner in the Employment Law & HR team at Burnetts.