22 September 2017
Suspension – What Does it Mean For me?
Where an employer is conducting a disciplinary process against an employee, the employer may decide to suspend that employee for a period of time. This can be a distressing and uncertain time for individuals particularly if their employer does not make it clear to them what the process and possible implications will be.
Below are some common questions we're asked regarding suspension:
Q: Why has my employer chosen to suspend me?
A: There can be a variety of reasons, however, suspension should be considered very carefully by your employer. Commonly suspension occurs where there is an allegation of serious misconduct which could pose a threat to the business or other employees, or if the employer is better able to conduct the investigation if you are away from work. Your employer should keep this decision under review throughout the process.
Q: Does suspension mean my employer already thinks I’m in the wrong?
A: No, not necessarily. Suspension should not be a disciplinary sanction and your employer should make this clear to you. As suspension commonly takes place at the early stages of an investigation, your employer should not at that point have made a finding or decided on disciplinary action and should keep an open mind going forward. If you think the decision to suspend you has been made due to a predetermined view by your employer then it is likely you will want to challenge this. If you do, keep a careful note of communications.
Q: What happens to my pay while I am suspended?
A: Unless your contract clearly allows your employer to stop paying you during your suspension (which is unusual) then you should continue to receive full pay and benefits during any period of suspension. As set out above, the purpose of a suspension is not to punish you and refusing to pay you would be a punishment and could also give rise to claims against your employer for unlawful deduction from wages and breach of contract.
Q: What should I do while I am suspended?
A: Common practice while you are suspended is that you cannot enter the workplace or contact your colleagues. You will likely be given a specific contact within HR or management you can report to if needed. While you are suspended you remain an employee and so your usual obligations (save for attending work) continue to apply, such as duties of confidentiality and trust and confidence. Your rights as an employee also continue to apply so for example, you continue to accrue holiday.
Q: How long can my suspension last?
A: There is no prescribed time limit. However, your suspension should be as brief as possible and kept under review. If you feel that your suspension has been unduly lengthy in duration then you should challenge this with your employer. You should ask for details on the progress they have made and on next steps and anticipated timescales.
Q: Is there an alternative option to suspension?
A: An employer does not always need to suspend an employee pending a disciplinary process and suspension should not be the knee jerk reaction. It is possible there could be other options and you may want to explore these with your employer. For example, in a complaint against you by a fellow employee, there may be an alternative part of the business in which you could work away from that employee whilst the investigation is carried out.
Q: What happens next?
A: Your employer may hold an investigatory meeting with you and will give you details accordingly. Once they have completed their investigation you will possibly be invited to a disciplinary hearing if your employer considers there is a case for you to answer. You will be entitled to be accompanied at the hearing and once the process is complete your employer should provide you with a written outcome. This could result in disciplinary action (such as a warning or dismissal) and if this is the case you should then be given the right to appeal against the outcome.
If you would like legal advice concerning suspension from work call our employment dispute solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online and we will be happy to help.
Brogan Solomon is an employment solicitor at Slater and Gordon in London.