You may be suspended from work if you are being investigated for misconduct or for medical or health and safety reasons. You are likely to be told not to attend your place of work or to carry out any work at all. Read on for more information about what it means to be suspended and your rights while suspended.
Reasons for suspension
In cases of serious misconduct, you may be suspended as part of a disciplinary procedure whilst the allegations against you are investigated. This may be appropriate in circumstances where there is a threat to the business or other staff members or there is concern that you may try to tamper with evidence or put pressure on witnesses, or where relationships at work have broken down.
Medical/health and safety
You may be suspended if your job is posing a risk to your health and safety. Your employer should consider whether there is any other suitable alternative role for you that reduces or eliminates the risk as opposed to suspension.
Is your employer contractually permitted to suspend?
You may be suspended if the employment contract provides for this, but your employer must still act reasonably. If there is no contractual right to suspend this doesn’t mean that an employer cannot suspend but they will need to consider whether the nature of your work gives an implied right to work; for example if where you would otherwise be deprived of the opportunity to earn a shift premium or commission. If there is such a right, your employer could be in breach of contract if they suspend you.
Suspension is a serious step and your employer must consider whether it can be avoided. It may be possible for example to relocate you to another area of the business while the investigation is carried out. Your employer must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspend to avoid breaching the term of ‘mutual trust and confidence’ which is implied into every employment contract.
The Suspension Process
You should be informed of the fact that you are suspended as soon as possible. If your employer does so verbally, it should be followed up in writing. The letter confirming suspension should make it clear that your are suspended and how long it is anticipated you will be suspended for, explain your rights and obligations during the period of suspension, confirm that the employment contract continues but that you should not report to work or contact colleagues or clients and give you a point of contact during your period of suspension (this may be a line manager or human resources manager).
The period of suspension should be as short as possible and the decision to suspend kept under review. Your employer should be careful about what information colleagues and clients are given about your suspension. Suspension should not be seen as a form of punishment but as a means of carrying out an investigation as quickly as possible. There should be no assumption of guilt which may prejudice the fairness of any subsequent disciplinary hearing.
Pay and employment rights during suspension
Unless there is a clause in the contract that says your employer can suspend without pay, you should receive full pay whilst suspended. This is the case, even if the suspension is part of a disciplinary process. Suspension on grounds of medical or health and safety issues should always be on full pay.
You retain your employment rights while suspended. If you do not receive the correct pay whilst suspended for example, you may be able to bring a claim against your employer for ‘unlawful deduction of wages’.
Your employer may prevent you communicating with colleagues or clients as a condition of the suspension. This is lawful as long as it does not restrict your ability to respond to the allegations against you.
Can we help you?
If you need advice about your individual situation, please contact us. For a free, no obligation, telephone consultation call on 01522 440512 or visit our website www.lincslaw.co.uk for more information.
Associate, Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
Lincs Law Solicitors, Lincoln