How long should a suspension from work last?

09 July 2019

Before you suspend an employee from work, you may want to consider how long they’ll be away from work. With that in mind, just how long can you be suspended from work (UK)? This guide explains everything you need to know.

What’s a work suspension?

First off, a quick reminder on what this is. It’s where an employee stays with your business, but you instruct them to not come into their workplace or contact any colleagues/clients. A suspension isn’t a disciplinary sanction, it just allows your business time to investigate a situation that’s developed. A suspension is usually due to a medical or health & safety reason. But it can also be due to an act of misconduct.

How long can a suspension last for?

We’re regularly asked by staff members, “How long can you be suspended from work?” The answer depends on the nature of the suspension:

  • Medical or health & safety related: If an employee has to take time off due to a hazard to their health, then you can suspend them for up to 26 weeks (it can be longer than this, but the employee won’t receive any pay after that period). Pay must be in full during all of that time (as long as they have worked for you for over one month).
  • Due to pregnancy: There can be a suspension for maternity, such as if the pregnant staff member is working in a hazardous environment (such as a lab with unsafe chemicals). As such, you should take reasonable steps to remove or reduce any risks to the employee and their baby. You can temporarily adjust their working conditions or hours of work (you can even offer alternative work). However, if you can’t reach an agreement then you resolve the issue then you can suspend them on full pay—this lasts as long as the staff member and baby are in any danger.
  • Because of misconduct: Finally, if an employee is facing a disciplinary procedure then you can suspend them for a brief period of time. It’s in your interests to carry out an investigation swiftly, but there’s no set amount of time to follow. But as an employer you are expected to conduct the investigation within a reasonable amount of time—the EAT states that continuing an unnecessary suspension could be grounds for a constructive dismissal claim.

Suspension laws regarding pay

As with the length of suspension times, another common question from employees is, “How long can you be suspended from work with pay?” The answer is dependent on their contract of employment and the nature of their suspension. But in most instances, unless you have a clause in their contracts, you must pay your employee their normal wage. Another regular question relating to this is, “How long can you be suspended from work without pay?” You wouldn’t suspend the employee without paying them when investigating their conduct. It’s a disciplinary sanction that you can use as long as it’s in the employment contract.

Need more help?

Suspending an employee can be a time-consuming and difficult task, but we can guide you through the disciplinary process. Call us today: 0800 028 2420.

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