Suspension is something an employer is sometimes entitled to do pending an investigation of misconduct or other serious disciplinary issue.
However, employers should be cautious when using it. It is not without risks and could amount to a breach of trust and confidence entitling you to resign and claim constructive dismissal. The sooner you take legal advice, the more chance you have of having the suspension reversed and to give you the best chance of defending yourself against the allegations.
Can my employer suspend me?
The right to suspend you will usually be set out in your contract of employment or staff handbook, which will also set out a non-exhaustive list of when the discretion will be exercised. Usually, you will be suspended on full pay, unless your contract of employment provides otherwise.
Whilst employers will always say that your suspension is a neutral act and implies no assumption of guilt, Tribunals can still criticise the decision to suspend someone, or even find your employer to be in breach of contract with you.
If there is a fair reason to suspend you and you suffer no detriment (for example, you continue to receive full pay and other usual benefits) then employers will generally be seen to have acted reasonably in deciding to suspend you. This may be because suspension:
- Highlights the seriousness of the matter and breakdown of trust
- Prevents the acts of gross misconduct being repeated
- Prevents you dealing with colleagues or clients/customers which may otherwise cause a detrimental effect on the business
- Allows your employer to investigate properly without interference
- In high profile cases, it is important to remove someone from the public eye as soon as possible
Whilst a suspension is not disciplinary action by itself, it often leads to disciplinary proceedings. In practical terms, the relationship has all but broken down by this point-whatever happens with the disciplinary process.
Can my employer tell my colleagues I have been suspended?
Yes, they can, but your employer still owes you a duty of trust and confidence. As such, although announcements about your suspension are allowed in principle, care should be taken before making an announcement, and any suggestion you are guilty of the allegation should be avoided. This could otherwise make the disciplinary process unfair.
You need to take action as soon as you think you are being treated unfairly.
How long should I be suspended for?
There is no strict rule but your suspension should be for the shortest period of time whilst the investigation takes place. You should be updated as to how long the suspension is likely to last.
If your employer has suspended you without reasonable grounds, or takes an unreasonably long time to carry out an investigation – making it impossible for you to go back to work – then you may have a case for constructive dismissal. You may also be able to bring a claim if your employer fails to review your suspension on a regular basis to determine whether or not it is still necessary.
What do I do now?
This is where we come in. Employment law is all we do.
It can often feel like your employer holds all the power. They will likely have experienced HR professionals or a solicitor working in the background. That’s why you need the best support and advice available. You need a specialist employment lawyer – one who will push for a reasonable deal in negotiating an exit.
We understand how it feels. We have helped hundreds of employees and because we act for businesses too, we know the tactics you’re likely to face from your employer. We know every trick in the book.
We will advise you of your options and how best to proceed – whether you want to return to work to defend yourself or would like us to negotiate an exit on your behalf.
You only have a limited amount of time to take action to preserve your employment rights – usually just three months (less one day) from the date your contract was breached or from when your employment ends.
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