Suspending employees – when and why?

The Times reported yesterday that Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending investigation after reportedly aiming a punch at a male producer.

Allegations of physical or attempted physical violence will generally lead to an employee being suspended but sometimes employers will suspend as a knee jerk reaction in other circumstances where it may not be necessary.

Suspension should only be used where there is no viable alternative and, because it is not in itself a disciplinary sanction, it should be with full pay. So, when should employers consider suspending an employee? Some general pointers are as follows:

  1. Where the allegations are serious and may (if proven) amount to gross misconduct;
  2. Where there is a danger that if left at work the employee may tamper with evidence or pressurize witnesses;
  3. Where leaving the employee at work may threaten the safety of other individuals.

Often, however, there may be other temporary solutions whilst the investigation is under-way.  For example, employees under investigation may be moved to alternative locations or onto different shifts if they need to be kept away from certain people.

If there is no option but to suspend, any periods of suspension should be as short as possible and the individual should be given regular updates as to the ongoing investigation.

Posted by: Clare Nicolaou Employment lawyer,  Novalex Solicitors 

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