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April 2012

Suspension – Is It A Knee-Jerk Reaction?

Are you jumping the gun and suspending your employees too soon when allegations of misconduct arise?

It is common practice for employers to automatically suspend employees if they are being investigated (or disciplined) for acts of serious misconduct.  This common practice is based on an understanding that if an “accused” employee is not suspended, this would seriously weaken an employer’s  case for a sound dismissal, if it got that far.

Recent case law, however, has questioned this knee-jerk reaction to serious acts of misconduct.  Employers are expected to consider carefully whether or not suspension during the disciplinary process is appropriate.

If suspension is an automatic response to serious allegations it could leave you trying to defend an unfair (or constructive unfair) dismissal claim for breach of trust and confidence because arguably such action could cause damage to an employee”s reputation and wellbeing.

Employers are expected to consider what alternative measures, if any, should be taken before imposing suspension on an employee.    Alternative measures could include temporarily relocating the employee, moving them to a different shift pattern or assigning different duties that remove the possibility of any further misconduct occurring whilst the current matter is dealt with.   Any dgfev online casino alternative measures should only be taken with the employee’s agreement and should not be imposed.

When deciding whether to suspend or not, the focus should be on whether there is a real risk that the conduct in question will be repeated and/or whether there is a threat to the integrity of the investigatory process.

In some circumstances, it may be necessary to suspend an employee for a short period pending the outcome of the investigation.  However, this should be as brief as possible and should be kept under review.  The employee should be kept up to date with how the investigation is progressing, the anticipated time frame and re-assurance should be given that suspension is not considered a disciplinary action.

The type of factors to consider when deciding whether to suspend or not include:

• Have working relationships broken down?
• Is it serious misconduct?  And if it were proven, could it result in summary dismissal?
• Do you think the employee might deliberately cause damage if he/she remains in the workplace?
• Do you think their presence in the workplace might prejudice the investigation in some way?
• Has the employee acted in a violent manner or threatened violence?
• Has the employee been accused of serious bullying or harassment?
• Is the matter being investigated highly sensitive?

A decision to suspend an employee should be taken only after careful consideration of all the circumstances and the employee should be provided with an explanation as to why suspension was considered necessary.