From time to time, an employer will feel it is necessary to suspend an employee from work whilst an investigation into allegations of gross misconduct is carried out. Is it, however, always appropriate to do so, simply because of the nature of the allegation?
When is suspension appropriate?
Thought needs to be given on every occasion as to whether suspension is appropriate, rather than it being automatic.
It may be appropriate where there is a threat to the business or to other employees. This could include where there is an allegation of theft or fraud, or where allowing the employee to remain at work may result in an opportunity for them to destroy evidence or interfere with potential witnesses.
The period of suspension should be as short as possible. Employers should also support a suspended worker by explaining why they have been suspended, making it clear that it does not mean a decision has been made that they are guilty of the misconduct. Further, they should be told that they are suspended on full pay and benefits, unless their contract permits the employer to suspend them on no pay.
New Acas guidance
To assist employers in this tricky area, Acas has recently published new guidance on suspensions at work.
While not a legal requirement to follow the guidance, it is nevertheless recommended to do so.
The guidance, for example, deals with whether to suspend an individual, the process for doing so and supporting an employee’s mental health during the period of suspension.
It also reiterates that a suspension should only be used when it is a reasonable way of dealing with a situation – such as to protect evidence, witnesses and the business – and appropriate alternatives to suspension need to be considered.
Suggested alternatives to suspension in the guidance include:
- Changing shifts or site
- Working from home.
- Working with different customers or away from customers.
- Stopping working with certain systems, tools or on specific tasks.
As said above, whilst not a legal requirement to follow Acas guidance such as this, nevertheless it is very helpful to do so.