09 July 2019

There can come a time when you may need to suspend a staff member. This could be due to a serious breach of your company policies, such as through misconduct or due to a medical/health & safety issue. But this can be a difficult and contentious issue to address with an employee. In this guide, we explore how you can go about handling the situation—plus the legal considerations you need to keep in mind.

What does “suspended from work” mean?

It’s where an employee commits an act of misconduct and the employee tells them to not attend work. The staff member remains employed, but must not attend your workplace. They should also not engage in any of their duties at all, whether they’re at work or home. Taking this step can have a major result on a staff member’s professional reputation. It should never be your immediate reaction to an incident. Immediate suspension can be justified in certain circumstances. But if you suspect a breach, then you can suspend an employee. Ultimately, you should only ever suspend a member of your team if it’s essential to do so. And remember that during their time away from your business, their contract of employment will continue with the same rights they previously held. Although in most cases you’ll pay employees, staff can also be suspended from work without pay. There’s more information on how and why this is the case further below, along with the other employee suspension laws you need to consider before suspending anyone.

Suspending an employee due to medical reasons

There are two types of suspension:

  1. Due to health & safety or medical reasons.
  2. As a result of a disciplinary procedure and investigation.

In this section, we’ll take a look at the first point—if suspension is due to a job becoming a risk to an employee’s health. An example might be if they’re allergic to a chemical in your working environment. As an employer, you can offer the staff member a different role within your business. If they’re able to take it, then there’s no need to suspend them. However, if the employee has to take time off then they can face a suspension of up to 26 weeks. If their time with your business is over one month, then they’ll receive full pay. This type of suspension can be longer, but they won’t be paid after the 26 week period. Keep in mind sickness laws for anyone on suspension, too. It’s common for employees to ask us, “Can I go off sick whilst suspended from work?” From your perspective, if they tell you they’re ill and can’t return to work if you need them to then you should pay them as usual with your standard sick pay.

Suspending an employee due to disciplinary action

If an employee behaves in a way you class as misconduct, suspending from work pending investigation may be appropriate in certain circumstances. But it will need to be a reasonable decision. Such an action isn’t a punishment in any respect, as the staff member may not be guilty of anything. You must provide the member of staff the reason why you’re suspending them. This can be in the form of a written letter, in which you can explain the reasons and detail what will happen next. In terms of how long their time away from work will be, it really depends on what you need to investigate. Obviously, you’ll want to carry out a thorough check of all the facts you have—this may include conducting interviews with other employees. But it’ll take as long as it needs to before you can make a decision. Consider how long you can reasonably keep your staff member suspended and if a prolonged suspension could pose any risks for you. It’s important you’re thorough as you could end up facing an unfair dismissal claim.

How to suspend an employee from work

Being suspended from work can harm an employee-employer relationship. As such, it’s essential you’re sure you have to carry out an investigation. This will make sure an employee isn’t unfairly suspended from work. Sometimes a staff member will be aware there’s the potential for disciplinary action. Many often ask us, “Can you be suspended from work without a warning?” No. You don’t need to provide a warning beforehand. But as part of your business, you’ll need an employee suspension procedure to ensure you follow the right legal process. But if a staff member commits an act of misconduct, then you can suspend them with immediate effect (so long as you have good reason to do so). Once you’re ready, you should inform the employee they’re now on suspension. Explain the reasons for why you’re doing this. You should follow up any discussions you have in writing through an employee suspension letter. In this, you should explain to the staff member:

  • Why you’re suspending them—the reasons and how long you expect it to last.
  • Their rights and obligations during the suspension period.
  • Indicate their employment contract continues during their time away from work. But they must not contact any clients or colleagues during the suspension.
  • If there is any contact, then they must notify you as soon as possible.
  • Make it clear the suspension period isn’t a disciplinary action—it’s time to allow your business to complete a fair investigation.

Looking for further help?

We can help you sort out your disciplinary, misconduct, or suspension procedures. Get in touch with us for immediate help: 0800 028 2420.

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