A guide to suspending an employee UK

When an employer implements a workplace suspension, the employee remains employed but is not permitted to attend their place of work or engage in any work for the company. Suspension should be seen as a last resort. An employer should consider whether it would be better to temporarily relocate the employee or give them different duties to perform.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the reasons for suspending an employee, the rules surrounding a suspension and how to advise an employee that they are being suspended.

Reasons for suspending a UK employee

A workplace suspension usually falls under one of the following categories:

  1. Medical or health and safety – An employee that has been employed for a month or more can be suspended for up to 26 weeks if the job poses a risk to their health or safety. If the employee is pregnant and a risk assessment concludes that that there is a health and safety risk, a reasonable (and safe) alternative must be offered. If this is not possible, then the suspension could last for the duration of the pregnancy. New mum’s must also be protected from workplace risks such as heavy lifting or working long hours.
  2. As part of a disciplinary procedure – This is the most common time a suspension occurs and is usually the result of an investigation into an allegation of misconduct. In these circumstances the length of the suspension will vary. The employer should strive to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and keep the decision to suspend under review.

Suspending an employee UK

The Rules regarding a suspension

The employer must give a clear reason(s) as to why the employee is being suspended. Other options should be carefully considered before making the decision to suspend. Unless the contract of employment specifically states that an employee can be suspended without pay, for the period of suspension the employee should be paid in full. (Potential overtime and commission payments will be determined by the employment contract.)

It is important to remember that a suspension is not a punishment (even when it is part of a disciplinary procedure). The suspended person is still an employee, so they retain all their employment rights.

Any meeting that involves the suspension of an employee should be as private as possible. While there may well be conjecture among colleagues as to why a member of staff has been suspended, it is important to keep the reason for the suspension confidential.

An employer is well within their rights to prevent a suspended member of staff from speaking with work colleagues or customers. This is particularly relevant if the suspension is part of a disciplinary procedure. That being said, the decision should not impact on the employee’s ability to answer any allegations made against them.

Suspending an employee pending the outcome of an investigation

The following situations may warrant a suspension pending the outcome of an investigation:

  • Cases of serious misconduct which, if proven, may result in dismissal
  • There is a risk an employee may deliberately cause damage in the workplace
  • When a relationship has broken down
  • Where the presence of an employee may influence an investigation
  • Cases of serious bullying or harassment
  • Highly sensitive matters
  • If the employee has been violent or threatening 

How to advise an employee that they are being suspended whilst an investigation is ongoing

As well as ensuring that the meeting is conducted somewhere private, it is advisable that someone is present to take notes. The note taker should not have any connection with the matter or events surrounding the suspension. During the meeting a manager must explain to the employee the following:

  • Why they are being suspended
  • When the suspension will start
  • The likely length of the suspension
  • That the suspension is not a form of disciplinary action (it isn’t a punishment)
  • The pay and benefits during the suspension
  • The suspension does not indicate guilt
  • That the employee will have an opportunity to put forward their version of events at an investigatory meeting
  • The employee will be kept updated on the progress of the investigation
  • The employee should not contact any customers, suppliers, or work colleagues
  • The employee should not visit any Company site (unless requested to do so or with prior consent)
  • During normal working hours the employee should remain contactable (in case a meeting needs to be arranged)
  • That a letter will be sent confirming the suspension and any terms discussed

Before the meeting concludes it is important that the manager asks the employee if they have any questions or if there are any matters that are unclear.

Checklist

  • Before taking an action, advise and discuss with senior manager(s) and HR
  • If a suspension is necessary, ensure this takes place swiftly
  • Arrange for someone to take notes in the suspension meeting
  • Advise the employee of the allegation(s)
  • Advise the employee of the reason for the suspension
  • Advise the employee how long the suspension is likely to last
  • Advise the employee that the suspension is on full pay and benefits (unless the contract of employment states otherwise)
  • Explain that the suspension does not indicate guilt
  • Explain that the suspension is not a form of disciplinary action
  • Advise the employee that they will need to attend an investigation meeting where they can respond to the allegation(s). Explain that a letter confirming the date, time and location of the meeting will be sent in due course
  • Confirm the employee’s mobile phone and landline numbers
  • Explain that the employee should remain contactable and available during working hours to attend meetings
  • Advise the employee that they are not permitted on site and they should not contact customers, suppliers, or colleagues
  • Ask the employee if they need to collect any essential belongings
  • Check that the notes accurately reflect the discussion
  • Send a copy of the notes to HR. A suspension letter should be sent to the employee within 24 hours

If you need further expert assistance regarding suspending an employee, please contact us to book a free, 30 minute consultation.

For more free help and advice read our blogs on ‘How to chair an appeal hearing‘, ‘Questioning techniques for a workplace investigation‘ and ‘The implications of the Workers Bill‘.