ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has published updated advice on the steps employers should consider whenever suspending an employee from work, writes Rhian Radia, Partner and Head of the Employment team at solicitors Bishop and Sewell.
A suspension clause is common in most employment contracts. Suspension occurs when an employer tells an employee to stop carrying out work and attending the workplace. Employees have an implied right to be provided with work by their employer and being suspended is usually a big deal, not just because of the withdrawal of work.
It may sound obvious, but the number of inappropriate suspensions I see suggests it does get lost – coming back from a suspension is incredibly difficult for employees, if they come back at all and mostly, they do not.
There is inevitably speculation about why somebody has been suspended and disappears from work unexpectedly. Reputational damage is a given. Whilst employers may seek to keep matters confidential, in reality, questions will be asked, and an employee may feel so aggrieved that they will not be prepared to agree to keep to a proposed script for the workplace absence.
An employer should only suspend an employee as a last resort following allegations of misconduct. It is possible to carry out a workplace investigation without suspension being needed. I can understand that if there is a risk of interference with evidence, a risk to other employees on site (for example, where harassment has been alleged) or where there are safeguarding issues that there is a time and place for a suspension. But I remain of the view that suspension is over-used and is sometimes a knee jerk reaction.
Alternative options to suspension can include:
- changing shifts
- working in a different part of the organisation
- working from home
- working from a different office or site
- stopping doing part of the job – for example not handling stock during an investigation into missing stock
- working with different customers or away from customers during an investigation into a customer complaint
- stopping using a specific system or tool during an investigation into inappropriate use of that system.
In the case of Caroline Harrison v Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, an interim mandatory injunction was granted following periods of suspension which were found to have no reasonable or proper cause in order to allow Ms Harrison to perform the majority of her normal duties. In this case, the High Court was persuaded by clear evidence in relation to the devastating impact an unfair suspension can have on an employee including on health and wellbeing and to a professional career.
ACAS Chief Executive, Susan Clews said: “Our advice will help employers understand when they can consider suspension and the support that they can offer them.
“Being suspended can be a stressful time for everyone. We have tips for employers on how they can support their employees’ mental health and wellbeing as well as alternative options to suspension that may be more appropriate.”
Contact our Employment Team
For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our Employment team, please email email@example.com or contact 020 7631 4141 quoting Ref CB355 and ask to speak to our Employment team.
The above is accurate as at 06 October 2022. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.