Suspending an employee: An Employers Guide
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Reasons for a suspension
An employee suspension refers to a situation in which a worker is still employed, but is asked not to attend your place of work for a given period.
In general, there are two situations in which you might suspend an employee. The first is related to health and safety. An employee might be temporarily suspended if something has happened that prevents them from safely carrying out their work. An example may be if you have a pregnant employee whose work may expose them to dangerous chemicals that could harm the baby. You may want to temporarily suspend the employee whilst you investigate how best to protect the employee.
The second and more difficult situation is one in which an employee is suspended as part of a disciplinary procedure.
Considerations For Suspending An Employee On Disciplinary Grounds
Suspending an employee comes with a certain degree of stigma attached. A suspended employee will suffer damage to their reputation, even if they have done nothing to warrant a suspension. As a manager or employer, it’s your job to consider all your options before deciding to suspend someone from your team.
Evaluate The Evidence
Managers should consider the evidence before granting a suspension. Suspending an individual on the basis of an allegation alone should not be sufficient to warrant time away from the workplace. You must consider the evidence to determine the correct course of action: take no action, suspend the employee, or find alternative arrangements during the investigation process.
If you believe a suspension may be warranted but don’t want to enforce an official suspension, then you have several options:
- Ask the employee to work from home;
- Grant a period of special leave;
- Transfer an employee to another location;
- Get the employee to work on a special project.
A suspension may still be the only option, but it is always worth considering alternatives.
Update Your Company Policy
Some companies automatically suspend employees following allegations of gross misconduct. Such automatic procedures put your firm at risk of an employment tribunal claim because the reasons for the suspension may be deemed unfair. It’s always worth considering the evidence or alternatives before committing to a suspension.
Evaluate The Cost
Suspending an employee on full pay can be expensive, both in terms of wages and lost productivity. Again, it’s worth considering whether there are better value-for-money alternatives while you carry out your investigations.
Resources to help your business
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Could You Face An Employment Tribunal Claim?
In general, suspending an employee does not lead to an employee making a claim against you. However, there are circumstances when you might be at risk of claims if any of the following apply:
- You dismiss the employee, and they make a case against you under “constructive dismissal” rules. For instance, if it is deemed that you fundamentally breached your contract.
- You cause the employee psychiatric injury. An employee might be able to make a case for compensation if the way that you dismissed them caused them harm.
- You suspend the employee on unlawful grounds. For instance, if you suspend an employee based on their race or gender.
When suspending an employee, there is always a risk that you might face a claim. It’s a good idea, therefore, to seek professional advice on a case-by-case basis to determine the precise nature of the risks that you face.
About the author
James is on the Business Development & Account Management team at Neathouse Partners and regularly posts articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law, including case law & legislation updates. If you have a particular issue you would like addressed, feel free to drop James an email, and he will be happy to offer his assistance.
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