When should you suspend an employee?

If you think you have a situation with an employee that calls for a suspension, do you know your legal obligations and their rights? Do you know when you should consider suspending an employee?

A suspension should not be used as a disciplinary sanction, but may be used in a disciplinary procedure if absolutely necessary, or if there are risks to an employee’s health.

What is a suspension?

A suspension is when an employee continues to be employed by your business but does not have to attend or undertake any work. You should usually only consider suspension from work if there is:

  • a serious allegation of misconduct
  • medical grounds to suspend
  • a workplace risk to an employee who is a new or expectant mother.

Suspension as a result of misconduct

You shouldn’t use suspension as part of a disciplinary procedure unless it is absolutely necessary. Most disciplinary procedures will not require suspension, as an employee should be able to continue doing their normal role while you investigate the matter.

However, as Acas states, you can consider suspension if there is a serious allegation of misconduct and:

  • working relationships have severely broken down
  • the employee could tamper with evidence, influence witnesses and/or sway the investigation
  • there is a risk to other employees, property or customers
  • the employee is the subject of criminal proceedings which may affect whether they can do their job.

In these cases, consider alternatives to a suspension where possible, such as a temporary adjustment to the employee’s working arrangements. This could involve being moved to a different area of the workplace, working from home, changing their working hours, being placed on restricted duties, working under supervision and being transferred to a different role within the organisation (with a similar status to their normal role, and the same terms and conditions of employment).

If suspension is the only option, work with the employee to keep it confidential, and if this is not possible, how they would like it communicated to the rest of the business. Suspensions can have a damaging effect on the employee and their reputation if not managed properly.

You may also need to consider whether you should escort the employee from the workplace, remove the employee’s pass and/or IT access if appropriate and/or ask the employee to not contact other employees during your investigation.

Suspension on medical grounds

You have a duty to ensure the health and safety of your employees, and in some instances health professionals may recommend an individual worker is unfit to work in a particular area or hazard.

If this cannot immediately be rectified, you may have to suspend the employee until it is safe for them to return to work. However, before you do this, you need to consider adjusting the working conditions or offering alternative work (at the same rate of pay and on terms no less favourable than the original role).

Suspension due to a risk to new or expectant mothers

In your risk assessment you must consider any specific workplace risks for any employee of childbearing age, who is pregnant, given birth in the last six months and/or breastfeeding.

When you are told about an employee’s pregnancy, you must consider the general risk assessment as well any advice the employee has received from their doctor or midwife. If you can’t remove any possible risk, you should consider temporarily adjusting working conditions and/or working hours, and if that is not possible, offer suitable alternative work, as above. If that is not possible you will need to suspend the employee until their maternity leave begins or it is safe for them to return to work.

The employee must be provided with the outcome of the risk assessment and the reason why the risk could not be removed.

If you think that you need to suspend an employee and need guidance, contact me today.

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