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Caution Is Needed When Suspending An Employee

The power to be able to suspend an employee can be a ‘knee jerk’ reaction to an episode at work.

Suspension is a serious step, but it may allow the employer to gain some control and let the dust to settle to enable a fair and proper investigation to be carried out. An employer must not suspend because they assume an individual is guilty of wrongdoing. In some cases it is valid, but in what circumstances is it appropriate?

A recent case in the Court of Appeal confirmed that an employee could only be suspended lawfully where there is ‘reasonable and proper cause to do so’. The legal case of Miss Agoreyo, a primary school teacher with 15 years’ experience v Lambeth Borough Council is compelling. She was suspended for serious misconduct after being accused of using physical force against two young pupils with behavioural issues. The Court of Appeal found that a breach of ‘trust and confidence’ between her and the school, coupled with her resignation, amounted to constructive dismissal.

The case confirmed that an impulsive decision to suspend an employee should not be a default position and the action must not be taken lightly. Employers should first consider several factors, such as carrying out a proper investigation while the employee remains at work, deliberate if there is a potential threat to the business and/or other employees and whether the employment relationship has suffered a material breakdown.

Suspension will impact an employee’s wellbeing and should always be used as a neutral response by an employer and never a disciplinary sanction. It must not be automatic or to send a message to others.

Employers must look for reasonable alternatives; otherwise, the effect on the employee, employer and other staff members may be far from constructive.

Coppice HR will provide guidance on this matter, especially stopping such issues in the first place. The alternative is spending plenty of time, significant cost and an inordinate amount of stress for everyone in defending the action. Contact us on paul@coppicehr.com or 07814 008478.

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