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A suspension is when you tell an employee that they do not have to do their daily duties or attend work i.e. you exclude them from work, but they are still employed by you.
A suspension is not a punishment and it is important to tell the employee that it is a neutral act to ensure that you can investigate an allegation or ensure their health & safety.
Suspension may be appropriate:
- If there are medical grounds to do so;
- If the workplace is deemed a risk to new or expectant mothers;
- Where they have been allegations of serious misconduct.
Suspension may be appropriate in order to:
- remove an employee from the workplace or your system to prevent tampering with evidence;
- prevent witness intimidation;
- diffuse a hostile situation;
- protect the health and safety of others;
- allow for an independent investigation.
Considerations can include:
- The nature of the allegation – is it potentially a gross misconduct, dismissable offence?
- If the employee is not suspended, is there a risk that they may cause disruption?
- Has the working relationship severely broken down?
- Is there a threat to the business or other employees?
- Are you able to investigate the matter properly whilst the employee is at work?
- Is there a risk that the employee could tamper with or destroy evidence?
- Is there a risk that the employee may interfere with witnesses or the investigation?
- Is the employee subject to criminal proceedings which may affect their ability to do their job?
- Are there any alternatives to suspension?
You could consider:
- moving the employee to a different area of the workplace;
- allowing the employee to work from home;
- altering their working hours;
- closely supervising the employee;
- temporarily transferring the employee to a different role.
- Who will do it? Who is the best person to conduct the disciplinary? If the matter turns into a disciplinary, who will conduct the disciplinary?
- Who will be present? Will there be any witnesses present, a notetaker present?
- Who will escort the employee off the premises?
- Do you wish to restrict the employee from making contact with anyone during their suspension such as customers, other employees etc?
- What arrangements are in place to escort the employee off the premises?
- What steps do you need to take in order to restrict the employee’s access to your IT systems? Don’t forget remote access on phones and the internet.
- Do you need to take any company property from the employee? Keys, mobile phone, laptop?
- How will you explain the employee’s absence to the rest of their team, bearing in mind the duty of confidentiality?
- When will you carry out the suspension – what time of day?
Process is key when it comes to suspending an employee; you need to be prepared and ensure that you follow the step be step process below.
- Ask the employee to accompany you to a private room/area where you will not be disturbed
- Ask the employee to sit down (if possible) and make them feel as comfortable as they can
- Introduce anyone else that you have asked to be there and explain why they are there eg “I have asked [name] to be here as a witness/to take notes during our meeting.”
- Explain that a serious matter has come to light and you would like to speak to them about it. Provide a summary of the issue e.g. “an allegation has been made that you [have been bullying your colleagues/stolen company property.”
- Pause to enable the employee to react to that statement – they may say something that could be relevant to your decisions later on
- Tell the employee that you intend to investigate the allegations and have decided to suspend the employee on full pay whilst you do so
- Tell them that suspension is a neutral act and no decisions have been made at this time. There is no inference of wrongdoing by the employee
- Tell them that you will keep the suspension as brief as possible and prioritise the investigation
- Tell the employee that they must remain available during the period of suspension and ask for their personal telephone number and email address
- Tell the employee that you will invite them to an investigatory meeting shortly where further details will be provided to them and they will be given an opportunity to give their version of events
- Tell them that their suspension is a confidential matter and they must not discuss the fact that they are suspended or the allegations with other employees, customers, suppliers and other third party contacts of the business. Any attempt to do so may result in disciplinary action for breach of confidentiality, failure to follow a reasonable management instruction and/or interference with an internal investigation.
- If appropriate, ask the employee to return the company property e.g. keys, credit card, laptop and mobile phone for the period of suspension and remember to ask for their passwords to access those devices.
- Tell the employee what you are going to say to their colleagues if questioned e.g. “[name] is currently out of the business. [name] will be covering their duties so please direct any queries to them”
- Ask the employee if they have any questions or comments.
- Tell them that they can go home now. Accompany them to collect their personal belongings or ask them to remain in the room which you do so e.g. car keys, phone, bag, coat, not their family photos and other personal effects around their work station
- Discretely escort them off the premises and tell them that you will be in touch shortly.
- Follow up the suspension with a letter confirming it
You must confirm in writing what you have previously told the employee and confirm what the next steps are. Your letter should include the following:
- the reason for the suspension and how long it is expected to last;
- the employee’s rights and obligations during the period of suspension, such as that they must be contactable during normal working hours;
- a reminder that their employment contract continues but that they are not to report to work and must not contact colleagues or clients;
- a point of contact (such as a Human Resources manager) during their period of suspension;
- Confirmation that the purpose of the suspension is to investigate and is not an assumption of their guilt.
- An employee should not be suspended for longer than is necessary to investigate the allegations.
- You should ensure that you review the length of the suspension frequently and consider whether it is still necessary to suspend the employee.
- Keep the employee updated regularly and ensure that you provide them with a timeframe with how long the suspension will take and what the steps will be.
Employees are generally entitled to receive their full pay and any contractual benefits that they are entitled to during any period of suspension
The only exceptions to this rule are where you have attempted to lift the suspension and the employee is not willing or able to attend work or there is a clear right to suspend without pay in the employee’s contract of employment
If an employee is off sick
Once you have concluded your investigation and you decide that the employee no longer needs to be suspended, you should contact them as soon as possible and ask them to return to work.
When they return to work, they should meet with their manager for a debrief before they are then allowed to resume their normal duties.
The return to work meeting can take place in the workplace or at an alternative venue.
You must always ensure that you protect your employee’s health and safety at all times.
Situations may arise whereby an employee is not able to carry out their normal duties e.g. they may be deemed unfit by a health professional which means that they are no longer able to work with a particular hazard or carry out a particular element of their job.
If there has been a hazard acknowledged, this should be removed as soon as possible without delay in order to ensure that the employee’s health and safety are maintained. If, however, this hazard cannot be removed straight away, you should consider the following options:
- adjust the employees working conditions if appropriate to ensure that they do not come into contact with the hazard;
- if possible, offer the employee a suitable alternative work which are based on the same pay and on terms which are not less favourable than the original role.
If the above options are not cost effective or not practical, you should consider suspending the employee on the grounds of medical health and only asking them to return to work when it is safe for them to do so.
If a situation arises where you have an employee who is expecting a baby or is having a baby, you must conduct a general risk assessment, taking into account any advice from a doctor or midwife.
You must provide the employee with an outcome of their risk assessment which you have carried out and if the risk cannot be removed, the reason why it could not be removed.
Where you have identified a risk to employees and you cannot remove this risk, you must consider one of the following options:
- temporarily adjust the employees working conditions or working hours if necessary;
- offer suitable alternative work if applicable (the rate of pay must be the same and the terms must not be less favourable than the original role)
If it is not cost effective to consider one of the above options, you should consider suspending the employee from their work. This period of suspension must be paid and should continue until it is safe for them to return or until their maternity leave starts.