It has long been the practice of employers to suspend employees usually immediately, when there is a suspicion of gross misconduct. The justification for the suspension has always been that suspension is a ‘neutral act’ and simply takes place to allow the employer to carry out an investigation while the employee is not within the business.
However, an Employment Appeal Tribunal have recently looked at this issue and decided that suspension is not a neutral act as anyone who would normally come in to contact with the employee, whether it be colleagues, clients or suppliers and gets to know they have been suspended, the assumption will be that the employee has done something seriously wrong. That assumption will work within the minds of people generally, whether it is true or not. Therefore be warned and be very careful before suspending employees before you are sure that they are guilty of misconduct.
There are only two occasions when suspension is appropriate and it is necessary to keep the employee out of the workplace –
- There is a real risk that the employee will interfere with the investigation.
- There is a real risk that the employee’s presence will damage the interests of the business.
If an employee is suspended immediately and it transpires that the employee was not guilty of gross misconduct, then the risk to employers is that this amounts to a breach of trust and confidence which will entitle the employee to resign and make a claim for unfair dismissal.
Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to speak to Ian Furness.