Suspensions from work on the increase

Suspensions from work on the increase

5th July 2021

We’re seeing a rise in the number of workers seeking advice after being suspended from their jobs.

Kerry Hudson, Employment Solicitor said there had been a steep increase in the number of enquiries in recent months.

In almost all cases the workers were completely unsure of their rights. It was also uncharted territory for many employers.

A person is usually suspended from work in instances where there is alleged gross misconduct and/or a breach of trust and it is believed their presence is harmful to the company and there is no other option while the matter is investigated.

Suspension usually occurs suddenly and without notice and in many cases often is the result of  financial matter such as misuse of a company credit card , irregularities with expenses, incorrect banking transactions or inappropriate behaviour towards a colleague but they can be for a whole host of reasons.

Although a suspension should be a last resort – for example, the employee is not able to transfer offices, be closely monitored  or work from home –any suspension should be for the shortest time reasonably possible whilst allowing time and space and the opportunity for a full investigation.

Kerry Hudson said: “It is not clear why there has been an upturn in the number of people coming to us seeking advice about being suspended. However, now that people are working from home more trust is needed between an employer and an employee and if there is a breach of trust it is more prominent.

“People are worried about their businesses surviving so they are of course acting swiftly to protect their reputation.”

Employers are often worried about placing an employee on suspension, as this may cause a real breakdown in a relationship with an employee that may be hard to rebuild later. However, if there is a genuine concern then a suspension while an investigation is conducted  is far better than instantly dismissing someone without investigating properly.

The first three questions always asked are, ‘Am I entitled to know why I am being suspended?’ ‘Am I entitled to full pay?’ and ‘How long will this take?’

“Employees have legal right to know why they are being suspended and throughout their suspension are entitled to full pay.

Whilst the two sit hand in hand they are also entitled to know that they are being investigated, and why.

“Subsequent investigations should certainly be conducted within a reasonable time frame and it is advised to complete the investigation in as short a time frame as possible.

“If the suspension is subsequently going to lead to disciplinary action, the employee has the right to be accompanied by a Trade Union representative or a colleague at the disciplinary hearing.”

Many people with less than two years employment are more concerned about the outcome, as they are aware that they will be unable to bring a claim for unfair dismissal if dismissal is the outcome.

On occasions employees will consider the suspension is completely unfair and lodge a grievance.  If however  they feel very strongly that it is unfair without any merit, it could lead them to consider whether they  want to return to the workplace again, which could result in  resignation or claims in the employment tribunal such as constructive dismissal.

Whilst in some cases further disciplinary action may be considered, such a written warnings or dismissal, subsequent investigations may find the allegations are unfounded – in which case the employee will be invited back to work and the relationship built up again.