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Suspension: it seems to be everywhere at the minute doesn’t it? Whether it’s the BBC’s decision to suspend Gary Lineker for expressing political views on Twitter or the Metropolitan Police’s failure to suspend Wayne Couzens which led to the murder of Sarah Everard and the recently published (and very damning) report into the culture of the Met police.

But it’s not just high-profile and large organisations that run the risk of getting suspensions wrong – this issue impacts each and every employer and the ramifications of getting it wrong are huge, so it’s really important that employers understand how and when to use suspension.

We’ve put together a handy list of questions for you to ask yourself if you do ever find yourself considering suspending a member of staff.

1     Do I have the right to suspend this person?

Before suspending a member of staff, you need to make sure that you have the right to do so. Check the contract of employment and your disciplinary policies or procedures. If there is no express right to suspend staff, seek advice. Things could potentially get messy and we’re here to help!

2     Why am I suspending them?

If you do have the right to suspend employees, then the next thing to think about is why you’re doing it. Suspension is mainly used when somebody is facing disciplinary processes and should really only be used to protect: any investigation process from interference; the reputation of the organisation; staff within the business or the member of staff themselves.

3     Is suspension reasonable in the circumstances?

Suspension should not be a knee jerk reaction, nor should it be used as disciplinary sanction.  Before suspending you should consider whether there are any alternatives that you might be able to use. For example, can you redeploy the member of staff to keep them away from others in the workplace? Can they work from home? Can you reassign duties?

At this point, It’s a really good idea to keep a record of your thinking and the answer to these first three questions. That way if anything is questioned in the future, you’ll have a clear record of your thinking at the time.

4     What do I need to do if I’m suspending somebody?

If you have an internal policy covering suspensions, check what that says as it might set out a process that you need to follow. Generally, however, if you do need to suspend an employee you should meet with them (making reasonable adjustments to the meeting if they are disabled) to inform them of the following:

  • That they are being suspended and what this means in real terms: set out what they can and cannot do during suspension and make clear they will continue to receive their full pay whilst they are suspended.
  • The reason for suspension: you should tell them as much as you are able to without breaching your duty of confidentiality towards other staff and without undermining any future investigations. Often, a simple statement such as “you are suspended pending an investigation into allegations related to an argument that take place on 7 March and to allow for the investigation to take place without interference” is sufficient.
  • That the suspension does not constitute disciplinary action: make clear that you will listen to what they have to say before making any decisions during that investigation and that suspension is just being used as a protection mechanism.
  • What you will tell colleagues: remember that suspension is confidential. You should explain what colleagues will be told and you should remind the employee that the suspension and associated processes are confidential and should not be discussed with others.
  • What support is available to them: provide a named contact for them and signpost them to any support services they may have access to as part of their employment.

You should always follow this up in writing and you should ensure that the suspension is kept under review. Remember – it should only last for as long as reasonably necessary.

If you get things wrong you could find yourself facing a claim one of any number of claims in the employment tribunal (from constructive dismissal to discrimination) and so it can be a costly mistake. If in doubt, speak to us at Precept. We’re experts on suspension and we are always on hand to guide you through the process.

In fact, suspension is one of the topics we pick up in our Mock ET (spoiler alert!) which is taking place on 19 April 2023. If you want to see some of what we’ve covered above put into practice, whilst taking in some Oscar worthy performances, sign up here: CLICK HERE