Acas issues new guidance on suspensions

Whether or not to suspend an employee suspected of misconduct is a difficult issue for employers to confront in any disciplinary process. Both employee and employer owe mutual duties of trust and confidence and suspending an employee recklessly can lead to the irreparable breakdown of the employment relationship.

Acas has published new guidance on suspensions at work, particularly when an employee is under investigation for misconduct. It reminds employers that suspensions will only be necessary in specific situations and should not be used lightly. Suspending an employee can not only cause immense stress to the individual involved, but risks breaching the employee’s contract of employment. Because of this, employers should consider whether a suspension is necessary and consider all the alternative options available to them, such as whether working from home or changing shifts would provide an alternative solution.

The guidance also emphasises that suspension is not a form of punishment, nor is it a finding of guilt. Rather suspension must be a reasonable response to a particular issue, such as:

  • The need to protect the investigation – for example if an employer is concerned that the individual could destroy evidence or seek to influence witnesses.
  • The need to protect the business – for example if there is a genuine risk to the employer’s customers, property, or business interests.
  • The need to protect the employer’s staff.
  • The need to protect the employee under investigation.

The guidance provides useful tips for employers in dealing with employees once they have been suspended, including how to deal with issues such as levels of communication, confidentiality and supporting an employee while they are suspended.

In addition, the guidance also covers suspensions due to pregnancy or medical reasons.

Employers can read the guidance in full here.

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