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Under what circumstances can I suspend an employee?

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Suspending an employee is never a decision to be taken lightly. If you suspect an employee has committed an act of misconduct and wish to suspend, you first must ensure that it would comply with certain circumstances for it to be an appropriate action. In this article, our Employment team discuss under what circumstances it is appropriate to suspend, what considerations you should make before suspending and what happens once you have suspended.

When is it appropriate to suspend?

Suspension is a useful tool for employers as it allows you to carry out an investigation into potential misconduct without the employee being present in the workplace.

You need to ensure that you only use suspension where it is appropriate to do so  and that any period of suspension is for a reasonable length of time.

Suspending an employee is usually appropriate in the following circumstances:

  • Where the alleged misconduct (if proven) would be serious enough to be grounds for dismissal;
  •  Where you have reason to believe that the employee may deliberately damage property or cause issues if they stay in the workplace; or
  • Where the employee’s continuing presence at work could prejudice the investigation.

Suspension could also be appropriate where there has been a breakdown in the relationship between yourself and the employee or where you have lost trust in the employee.

It is not usually appropriate to suspend an employee for minor misconduct, such as persistent lateness or failing to adhere to company dress code. Suspension should be used carefully and should not be a knee-jerk reaction.

What other considerations should I make before suspension?

It is always important for you to consider solutions other than suspension. If you make every attempt to avoid it, this will make sure it is the correct course of action. Before you move to suspend an employee you should consider:

  • Why is suspension necessary? -  what are you looking to achieve by suspending the employee? Are you suspending to protect evidence in an investigation or to protect other employees? 
  • Whether any, less onerous, alternatives are possible - suggesting the individual work from home, has access restricted to certain information or being temporarily redeployed may be more appropriate than suspension;
  • What evidence is available?  - are the allegations being made against the employee credible? A full judgement on the facts will not be made until the conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings, however you should at least carry out some preliminary investigations prior to suspending the employee and be confident there is some evidence to back up the allegations; and
  • What effect the suspension may have on the employee? - will suspension likely have a material impact on the employee’s reputation, either internally or externally?

What happens after I have suspended an employee?

Any period of suspension should ordinarily:

  • Be on full pay;
  • Kept as short as possible; and
  • Be regularly reviewed.

If an employee is suspended, they should be told not to attend work or contact any of their colleagues or any of your clients or contacts unless authorised to do so.

It is important that when suspending an employee, you follow the procedure and guidelines set out in your staff handbook. You must also keep in regular contact with employees in relation to the investigation and how long the suspension is likely to last. In order to ensure employers minimise any risks of unfair dismissal, a fair suspension should be accompanied by a fair disciplinary process.

If you need advice on suspending an employee, or the ensuing disciplinary process, you can contact our Employment team today on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk to discuss your options.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.