Employment law- Suspension
Suspension of an employee is something an employer is usually entitled to do pending an investigation of gross misconduct or other serious disciplinary matter.
The right to suspend by employers will usually be set out in your contract of employment or staff handbook, which will also set out a non –exhaustive list of when the decision will be exercised. Usually, you will be suspended on full pay, unless your contract of employment provides otherwise.
Even if there is no right to suspend in your contract, providing there is a suitable reason and you suffer no detriment (for example, you continue to receive full pay and other usual benefits) then most employers will be deemed to have acted reasonably in deciding to suspend you.
The benefits for an employer in suspending an employee are numerous. They include:
- To highlight to the employee the seriousness of the matter and breakdown of trust;
- To immediately stop the employee carrying on the gross misconduct that is being alleged;
- To stop the employee interacting with other employees or clients/customers of the employer, which may otherwise cause a detrimental effect of the business;
- To enable an employer to properly investigate without hindrance from the employee;
- In high profile cases, it is important to remove the employee from the public eye as soon as possible.
Whilst a suspension is not a disciplinary action by itself, it often leads to disciplinary proceedings. In practical terms, the relationship has all but broken down by this point-whatever happens with the disciplinary process.
How long should the suspension be for?
A suspension should be for the shortest period of time whilst the investigation takes place, and you should be updated as to how long the suspension is likely to last. Indeed, the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures states that suspension should be:
• as brief as possible;
• kept under review;
• not be used as a disciplinary sanction.
If your employer has suspended you without any reasonable grounds to do so, or takes an inordinate amount of time in carrying out an investigation (without explanation) making it untenable for you to go back to work, then you may have a case for constructive dismissal. This may also apply if it proves impossible for you to properly defend yourself because you have been asked not to speak to other colleagues.
Your employer should review your suspension on a regular basis to determine whether or not it is still necessary, otherwise this can also amount to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence giving grounds for a constructive dismissal claim.
Can your employer inform work colleagues about your suspension?
Yes, they can, but your employer still owes you a duty of trust and confidence. As such, although announcements about your suspension are allowed in principle, care should be taken before making any such announcements, and any suggestion of guilt should be avoided. This could otherwise make the disciplinary process unfair.
Can you still go on holiday during a period of suspension?
Yes, you can take holiday in the usual way, unless your contract of employment specifies otherwise.
Taking legal advice
It is always advisable in obtaining legal advice as soon as possible if you have been placed on suspension, especially as this can seriously affect your future career prospects. In many cases, we have been able to negotiate favourable severance terms with employers against a background of suspension, leading to a mutually agreed departure under a settlement agreement.