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Spotlight on Suspension: When and How to Suspend an Employee

It is reasonable to expect that at some point in a company’s corporate lifetime, an employee may be subject to an allegation which must be dealt with accordingly. In light of current events, we are producing this helpful a guide for employers in relation to suspension.

Can an employee be suspended for actions taken outside of the workplace?

As we have witnessed with the current BBC scandal, an employee can be suspended for conduct they have committed outside of the workplace. However, the decision will depend on:

  1. Whether the conduct has any bearing on employment relationships (for instance, if the conduct relates to violence or sexual harassment); and
  2. Whether it has any bearing on the employer’s reputation.

Many companies will establish their own rules and procedures on employees’ obligations outside of the workplace. Nevertheless, an employee’s external conduct can still lead to suspension.

What is the current guidance?

Acas provides guidance on suspension and suggests alternatives, which an employer should always consider. These include:

  • Changing the individual’s shifts, or instructing them to work from home;
  • Working with different customers or removing them from customer service;
  • Preventing them from working with certain systems, tools, or on specific tasks.

As we have seen, suspension of an employee can cause severe stress to the individual and comes with a further risk to the employer of breaching the employment contract. Therefore, the decision to suspend must be executed only when it is deemed reasonable, necessary and where alternatives are not appropriate.

Suspension seems reasonable: What next?

It is an employer’s legal duty of care to support the person who is being suspended during investigation. Acas provides the following guidelines as to how to approach the suspension of an employee:

  • Explain the reasons for the suspension;
  • Make it clear that suspension does not mean that they have been found to have done something wrong;
  • Maintain pay and benefits;
  • Keep the suspension as short as possible;
  • Keep it confidential where possible; and
  • Stay in regular contact with the individual.

Where possible, speak to the employee in person, and always have the notice of suspension in writing.

If you would like further assistance on this topic, please feel free to contact our Employment Team on [email protected].