When can an Employer suspend an Employee?

ACAS has published new guidance on when an employer should suspend an employee.

Many employers suspend an employee as a matter of course if a disciplinary concern is raised about them.  Whilst it may be appropriate to suspend an employee to protect a disciplinary investigation (where an employer has concerns that the employee may damage evidence or influence witnesses), or to protect business relationships with customers or company property or to protect a member of staff, ACAS makes clear that suspension should only be used if no other option is available and the employer has put in place support for the suspended employee.

The alternative options suggested by ACAS include arranging for the employee to work different shifts, at a different site, in a different part of the organisation or from home.  Employers could also consider asking the employee to stop working with particular customers or doing a particular part of their job (such as handling stock if there is a concern over missing stock) or using a specific system or tool (such as the finance system if there is a concern over missing money). Employers should consider each of these options carefully before deciding to suspend an employee.

If an employer decides to suspend an employee, they should ensure that the employee understands that being suspended does not mean that they have done something wrong, it is to allow the employer to investigate a concern.  The suspension should be as brief as possible and the employee should continue to be paid and receive their benefits during the suspension period.

ACAS stress the potential impact a period of suspension can have on an employee’s mental health and working relationships and advises employers to make plans to keep in regular contact with a suspended employee and to ensure that any period of suspension is kept confidential wherever possible.

It is clear from the ACAS guidance that employers should not consider suspension as an automatic step to be taken in a disciplinary process.  Thought must be given to whether suspension is appropriate in the circumstances and, if so, whether there are any alternative actions that could be taken. Finally, employers need to be mindful of the impact suspension may have on an employee’s mental health.

Click here for the new guidance.