Suspending Employees

Suspending Employees

There has been an update to the guidance around suspending an employee from work which sets out that there are only three scenarios in which you can consider suspension from work.

Suspension is where an employee continues to be employed but does not have to attend work or do any work. The three scenarios where you can consider suspension are:

  1. A serious allegation of misconduct
  2. Medical grounds to suspend
  3. A workplace risk to an employee who is a new or an expectant mother

It is really important that suspension is not used as a disciplinary sanction and it is not the automatic approach to take when dealing with disciplinary matters. If an employee is suspended, it does not mean that they have done something wrong and you must not assume they have done something wrong.

What is classed as serious misconduct?

Most disciplinary procedures will not require suspension. An employee will usually be able to continue doing their normal role while the matter is investigated.

Suspension should usually only be considered if there is a serious allegation of misconduct and:

  • Working relationships have severely broken down
  • The employee could tamper with evidence, influence witnesses and/or sway the investigation into the allegation
  • There is a risk to other employees, property or customers
  • The employee is the subject of criminal proceedings which may affect whether they can do their job
Suspension on medical grounds

You have a duty to ensure the health and safety of your employees.

In certain circumstances, a health professional may recommend that an individual worker is unfit to work with a particular hazard.

If the hazard cannot be immediately removed, you should consider:

  • Temporarily adjusting working conditions
  • Offering suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay and on terms no less favourable than the original role)

If it is not feasible to make such adjustments, you may have to suspend the worker until it is safe for them to return to work.

Suspension due to a risk to new or expectant mothers

You must consider any specific workplace risks in their general risk assessment for an employee who:

  • Is of childbearing age
  • Is pregnant
  • Has given birth in the last six months
  • Is breastfeeding

Common risks include:

  • Heavy lifting or carrying
  • Standing or sitting for long periods without adequate breaks
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Long working hours

When you are told, in writing, of an employee's pregnancy, you must consider their general risk assessment taking into account any advice the employee has received from their doctor or midwife. If the risk cannot be removed, you must:

  • Temporarily adjust working conditions and/or working hours, and if that is not possible;
  • Offer suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay and on terms no less favourable than the original role) and if that is not feasible;
  • Suspend the employee from work on paid leave until their maternity leave begins or it is safe for them to return to work

The employee must be provided with the outcome of the risk assessment and the reason why the risk could not be removed.

For more information about the protection of new and expectant mothers who work, go to www.hse.gov.uk.

How should an employee be suspended?

If suspension is necessary, an employee should be provided with a suspension letter that includes:

  • The reasons for the suspension and how long it is expected to last
  • Their rights and obligations during the suspension. For example, that they should be contactable during normal working hours
  • A point of contact (such as a manager or owner) and their contact details for the employee during their suspension
  • That the purpose of suspension is to investigate and is not an assumption of guilt
Pay during a suspension

Employees should usually receive their full pay and benefits during a period of suspension.

An employee suspended due to a serious allegation of misconduct must receive their full pay unless:

  • They are not willing or are able to attend work (for example because they are ill)
  • There is a clear contractual right for an employer to suspend without pay or benefits

However, you should seek legal advice if you are considering suspension without pay. Unpaid suspension is more likely to be viewed as a punishment and could lead to accusations that the disciplinary procedure was not fair.

An employee suspended from work on medical grounds must receive their full pay unless they:

  • Have been employed for less than one month
  • Are not willing or able to attend work (for example because they are ill)
  • Have unreasonably refused suitable alternative work
  • Have been suspended for more than 26 weeks

An employee suspended on maternity grounds must receive their full pay unless they either:

  • Are not willing or able to attend work (for example because they are ill)
  • Have unreasonably refused suitable alternative work

To download this as a fact sheet click here or you can download our suspension letter here.