When can an Employer suspend an Employee?
In the recent case of London Borough of Lambeth v Agoreyo, the Court of Appeal has held that an employer may suspend an employee where it has reasonable and proper cause for doing so. In this case a primary school teacher was suspended following accusations made by teaching assistants that she had used excessive force against two young pupils with special educational needs. The school teacher claimed that the move to suspend her was a ‘knee jerk’ reaction and that as such, it was a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. Following the suspension, she resigned and brought a claim.
At first instance, the County Court held that the school had reasonable and proper cause for suspending her and therefore, dismissed her claim. However, on appeal the High Court held that it had not been necessary to suspend her and therefore the suspension was a breach of trust and confidence.
Finally, the Court of Appeal heard the case and ruled that the County Court had in fact been entitled to hold that the school had a reasonable and proper cause to suspend the employee and therefore, allowed the appeal. The Court of Appeal said that the High Court was wrong to adopt a test of whether it was necessary to suspend the employee, the Court of Appeal held that that was setting the bar too high.
Accordingly, an employer can suspend an employee where it has reasonable and proper cause for doing so. However, whether or not a suspension is lawful will always turn on the individual facts of the case and therefore, we would always advise employers to take legal advice before suspending an employee because the liability for acting unlawfully in this regard, can be significant.