When is it justifiable to suspend?

Suspension is an action available as part of investigations and disciplinary proceedings, however there can often be some confusion around when you should suspend an individual and a tendency to 'jump in' too soon without taking a step back to assess the circumstances, any risk and whether this is actually warranted.

Taking misconduct as a starting point. In so many businesses, suspension is often a knee jerk reaction to an incident that has occurred where in most potential disciplinary cases, it isn't warranted. Suspension should only be used in serious misconduct allegations if there are genuinely the following risks:

  • evidence being tampered with whilst the investigation is taking place,

  • witnesses being intimidated,

  • damage to property or data,

  • if working relationships are severely broken, or

  • if criminal proceedings are pending with an individual.

Most day to day disciplinary matters won't fall into these areas and therefore don't warrant a suspension, however cross you might feel.

It is really important to point out that by suspending an individual, this doesn't necessarily mean that they have done anything wrong or that as their employer, you believe that they have. So many managers forget to make this clear to individuals when advising of suspension and it can feel so very negative for the employee when the manager is angry when delivering the message.

Bear in mind that there are alternatives to suspension that you should also give due consideration to. These can be:

  • temporarily moving someone to another area of the business during the investigation,

  • allow a period of working from home,

  • changing their working pattern or role,

  • or place them on restricted duties.

If none of these are practical in the circumstances, only then should you resort to suspension.

For misconduct suspensions you will also need to think about whether you temporarily revoke access to the building, removing access passes in the process, revoking access to systems and asking them not to speak to other employees, or specified third parties, during the investigation. You need to be really clear in explaining the reason for the suspension and that it will be kept confidential and as short a period as possible during the investigation, it should always be confirmed in writing.

As with all matters of this nature it's important to behave reasonably. In the heat of the moment if you really need to remove someone from the business, send them home for the rest of the day before your formally suspend. You may well need to justify your decision for suspension at a later date so it's important that you can back this up with more than a 'heat of the moment' decision.

You may be aware that you can also suspend people for medical and health and safety grounds and we'll cover this in a blog at a later date, but for now if you need any guidance on a situation you currently have, or in the future, then reach out to us at hello@peakhr.co.uk and we'll be happy to discuss the situation and support you in managing things in the right way to protect your business.

Please note our blog posts contain general information and are intended as guidance only and should not be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. Please ensure that you obtain advice tailored to your individual situation before taking action. These posts apply to the UK only.

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