Suspension from work
Suspension is when an employee is told by their employer not to attend their place of work or to carry out any work at all. Read on for more information about what it means to be suspended and an employee’s rights while suspended.
Reasons for suspension
An employee can be suspended if they are being investigated for misconduct or for medical or health and safety reasons.
In cases of serious misconduct, an employee may be suspended as part of a disciplinary procedure whilst the allegations against them 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 the employee may try to tamper with evidence or put pressure on witnesses, or where relationships at work have broken down.
Medical/health and safety
An employee may be suspended if their job is posing a risk to their health and safety. The employer should consider whether there is any other suitable alternative role for the employee that reduces or eliminates the risk as opposed to suspension.
The employer should complete a risk assessment of a pregnant employee’s job and working conditions to eliminate any health and safety risks to them and their baby.
Is the employer contractually permitted to suspend?
An employee may be suspended if the employment contract provides for this, but the employer must still act reasonably. If there is no contractual right to suspend this doesn’t mean that an employer cannot suspend but the employer will need to consider whether the nature of the employee’s work gives an implied right to work; for example if where the employee would otherwise be deprived of the opportunity to earn a shift premium or commission. If there is such a right, the employer could be in breach of contract if they suspend the employee.
Suspension is a serious step and the employer must consider whether it can be avoided. It may be possible for example to relocate an employee to another area of the business while the investigation is carried out. The 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 employee should be informed of the fact that they are suspended as soon as possible. If the employer does so verbally, it should be followed up in writing. The letter confirming suspension should make it clear that the employee is suspended and how long it is anticipated they will be suspended for, explain the employee’s rights and obligations during the period of suspension, confirm that the employment contract continues but that the employee should not report to work or contact colleagues or clients and give the employee a point of contact during their 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. The employer should be careful about what information colleagues and clients are given about an employee’s suspension. Suspension should not be seen as a form of punishment for the employee 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 the employer can suspend without pay, the employee 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.
The employee retains their employment rights while suspended. If an employee does not receive the correct pay whilst suspended for example, they may be able to bring a claim against the employer for ‘unlawful deduction of wages’.
The employer may prevent the employee communicating with colleagues or clients as a condition of the suspension. This is lawful as long as it does not restrict the employee’s ability to respond to the allegations against them.
How can LincsLaw help you?
For further information please contact us on 01522 440512 or 01522 440515 (direct dial) or visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk.
Specialist Employment Solicitor
LincsLaw Employment Solicitors