23 Sep 2019
Suspension is often seen as a punishment or disciplinary sanction—this isn’t the case.
You should only consider suspending an employee under certain circumstances. And it’s important you get the rules surrounding pay and time off correct.
What is a paid suspension from work?
It’s when an employee doesn’t have to attend work or do any work, but you continue to employ (and pay) them.
Why should you do this?
There are specific reasons for putting an employee on paid suspension:
- When there’s been a serious allegation of misconduct against the employee.
- There are legitimate medical grounds to suspend them.
- There’s a workplace risk to the employee who’s a new or expectant mother.
Again, you shouldn’t use suspension as a disciplinary action.
How long should a suspension from work last?
When considering a temporary suspension from work one of the first things you need to establish is how long to suspend the employee.
Ideally, the period should be as brief as possible.
Ultimately, it depends on the reason for suspension. For example, if it’s due to a disciplinary investigation it’ll last however long it takes for you to carry that out.
Similarly, a suspension for medical reasons will last as long as it takes for the medical issue to reach a resolution, or for you to find alternative work that doesn’t impact the employee’s health.
Legally, the upper time limit is 26 weeks on full pay for medical reasons, if they’ve been with the business for at least one month.
Medical reasons can include mental health issues, which you can help support your staff members via an Employee Assistance Programme.
Employee suspension procedure
If you deem it necessary to suspend an employee, you should provide them with a letter in good time.
Once the employee is on suspension, you should send them regular updates, including details on how much longer it’s likely to last.
If the suspension is part of a disciplinary procedure, you don’t necessarily have to maintain regular contact but should highlight that the employee may get a union rep or colleague to accompany them to disciplinary hearings.
If you decide to end the suspension, the staff member should return to work immediately. Arranging a return-to-work meeting can help address any issues they might have upon their return.
Employee suspension laws
As with most HR procedures, there are rules that dictate what you can and can’t do.
One question that comes up a lot regarding suspension is this:
“What can an employer tell employees about a colleague’s suspension?”
Obviously this depends on the circumstances of the suspension. If it’s a result of an ongoing disciplinary, or undisclosed medical reasons, you’re dealing with sensitive information.
As a general rule, it’s best to keep the reasons for the suspension confidential. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t tell employees about the suspension itself.
They’re also protected by employment law when suspended with pay if they feel the suspension is unfair.
Firstly, the staff member should try to resolve the matter informally. If you and the employee can’t resolve the issue, they may make a formal complaint or grievance.
If an official grievance fails to resolve the issue, they may decide to take you to an employment tribunal.
Suspension from work letter
There are four things the letter should include. These are:
- The reason for suspension, and how long you expect it to last.
- Details of the employee’s rights and obligations during the suspension.
- A point of contact at the organisation, usually a line manager or HR representative.
- A confirmation that the purpose of suspension is to investigate, not a punishment or assumption of guilt (If the suspension is due to an ongoing disciplinary).
If you’re still confused, check out this example of a suspension letter to an employee:
“Dear [EMPLOYEE'S NAME],
I am writing to confirm that, as of the date of this letter, you have been suspended from work until further notice.
[OPTIONAL] Your suspension doesn’t constitute disciplinary action and doesn’t imply any assumption that you are guilty of any misconduct.
The matter will be kept under review and we’ll aim to keep your suspension as brief as possible. We retain the right to lift your suspension at any time and with immediate effect.
During your suspension, we shall continue to pay your salary in the normal way.
Throughout your suspension, you’ll continue to be employed by us and remain bound by your terms and conditions of employment.
[Your pre-arranged period of annual leave from [DATE] to [DATE] inclusive will be unaffected by these arrangements, and you won’t be required for disciplinary or work-related matters during that period].
Any [further] annual leave requests during the period of suspension must first be approved by [POSITION]. You must request annual leave if you wish to go on holiday or make yourself unavailable in any other way.
If you have any queries regarding the terms of your suspension please feel free to contact me.
On behalf of [NAME OF EMPLOYER]”
If you require assistance with the suspension of an employee, or any other HR issue, speak to a Croner expert today 0808 145 3380.
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