If you have an employee suspended from work with pay, you must have grounds to do so. The suspension itself is not a way to reprimand workers. On the contrary, you should only use it in relation to a workplace investigation, or health & safety concerns.
In this article, we will cover the basics of paid suspension from work. You should only use it as part of a clear, fair process, meant to protect all parties involved. By following due process, you’ll ensure that any necessary investigation can carry on to a satisfactory conclusion. You will also protect the company from the risk of tribunal claims following an investigation or health & safety concerns.
What is paid suspension from work?
Paid suspension is when you ask an employee not to attend the workplace or do any work. They remain a staff member and retain their rights as an employee, including the right to be paid as normal.
As an employer, you can place a staff member on suspension in two types of scenarios:
- You need to investigate allegations of misconduct and/or abuse made against them.
- You have serious, legitimate concerns for their health or safety in the workplace.
The latter situation also refers to workplace risks to pregnant women. If aspects of their job could harm them or their baby, consider suspending them on full pay. First, you need to run the relevant risk assessment and check if you can offer reasonable adjustments or a suitable alternative. If these aren’t feasible, you can protect them from harm on paid suspension while keeping them employed.
You should only suspend an employee for the shortest possible period, regardless of the reasons for this decision. Consider the stress that such a situation involves and the effect on both the employee and the whole team. Reaching a conclusion in the investigation as soon as possible will reduce the overall negative impact on your staff.
Why choose suspension on full pay?
Government resources highlight paid suspension from work as the preferable option. Employers shouldn’t suspend staff members as punishment but as part of the investigation process. Once you finish investigating the matter, you can progress to the disciplinary procedure if needed.
You can have staff members suspended without pay pending investigation if their employment contract specifies this. However, think of the consequences, and the purpose of the whole process. Investigating allegations should be a fair, unbiased process, regardless of the outcome. You don’t want to make yourself vulnerable to unfair dismissal claims.
Let’s say that the investigation clears your employee of any allegations brought against them. But you had suspended them without pay, and now they’re actually looking for another job. Would they still have been doing so if suspended with pay?
Our advisors have seen the following questions frequently:
Can you suspend someone without pay?
Is it legal to suspend an employee without pay?
Legally, you can suspend an employee without pay, but only if you’re not breaking the terms of their employment. If you break them and end up dismissing them, they’ll have a case for wrongful dismissal.
Other relevant aspects of paid suspension
As mentioned above, the person suspended retains all their rights. So, holiday pay while suspended remains the same. Consider if you can allow the staff member to go on holiday while you investigate allegations brought against them. You might need them to be available for a hearing to conclude the process and reach a decision. Suggest they reschedule annual leave, so they take it after the investigation has concluded.
The same applies to sick pay during a suspension, with certain considerations. If the person has already been on sick leave when suspended, they will carry on with their statutory sick leave entitlement. This means that the employee will receive at least statutory sick pay instead of full pay.
If you put somebody on suspension for medical reasons, they have the right to full pay for up to 26 weeks. As government resources explain, you must not mistake this situation for sick leave on statutory sick pay.
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When in this situation, you must remember that suspending an employee should not be treated as punishment. Also, don’t make it a direct part of the dismissal process, as you risk ending up with tribunal claims on your hands.
So, when employers ask can you suspend an employee without pay, our advisors say yes, but why should you? You could have staff members suspended without pay pending investigation if you included this in their employment contracts. But paid suspension tends to be the norm.
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