Suspension from work is not a disciplinary action, neither does it presume guilt.  However, it can cause unnecessary distress to an employee.

Employment Tribunals have started to frown on knee-jerk suspensions in reaction to incidents and have identified risks to suspending employees.


What is suspension?

Suspension is an act of removing someone from the workplace and will include the following:

  • The employee is not permitted to be on the Company premises unless authorised

  • The employee is not permitted to carry out any work for the company or interact with colleagues unless authorised

  • The employee remains bound by their contract of employment and therefore should be available during working hours to engage with any work proceedings (e.g. available for interview)

It is important for policies to be clear on the use of suspension and what the employee can/cannot do.

When should suspension be used?

Suspension should always be viewed as a last resort and should only be considered if there is:

  • A real and significant risk to the operations, reputation or safety of the business and/or its key stakeholders e.g. employees, suppliers, customers

  • A risk to the quality and integrity of a disciplinary investigation e.g. the employee may tamper with evidence or intimidate witnesses

What does ACAS say?

In cases where a period of suspension with pay is considered necessary, this period should be as brief as possible, kept under review and it should be made clear to the employee that suspension is not considered a disciplinary action.

An employee is usually suspended to avoid the risk of others involved in the investigation feeling intimidated while it is conducted, or evidence being corrupted.

In a small firm, the employer will have to weigh suspension against the impact on their business of the absence of the employee if no-one else can cover the role.

Suspension will normally depend on the gravity of the allegation. For example, suspension in case of possible gross misconduct, such as violent behaviour, is much more likely.

What is the legal process for Disciplinary proceedings and suspension at work?

The employee should be asked to attend an investigatory hearing to establish whether or not there are grounds to discipline the employee. If there are sufficient grounds to proceed, the employee will be asked to attend a subsequent disciplinary hearing. (A disciplinary hearing can be held without an investigatory hearing). However, there should be reasonable grounds to bring disciplinary action against an employee.

In preparation for the hearing, the employee should gather evidence to defend the allegations and/or prepare and supply a written statement to the employer at or before the hearing. The employee must be allowed to see the evidence that the employer intends to use before the disciplinary hearing takes place in order to enable the employee to prepare his response to this evidence.

A Trade Union representative  or a fellow employee is entitled to attend the meeting with the employee. The employee is not generally entitled to take any other person to the meeting unless agreed by the employer. The employer must permit the employee’s companion to address the hearing and. they may also confer with the employee during the hearing. The companion may be allowed to answer questions on behalf of the employee subject only to the employer’s prior agreement.

Following the meeting, the employer must decide whether the allegations are upheld and, if so, what sanctions to apply. The decision should be communicated in writing to the employee. If the employer decides that the allegations are upheld, it must give the employee the opportunity to appeal. If the employee requests an appeal he or she should write to the employer stating the grounds on which he appeals. The employer should arrange an appeal hearing and following that hearing, communicate the outcome in writing to the employee.

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