Suspension is when an employee is sent home from work, usually while receiving full pay and benefits. The right to suspend will usually be set out in the employee’s contract of employment, the employee handbook or disciplinary policy. Whilst a suspension is not a disciplinary action in itself, it often leads to disciplinary proceedings. Read our guide for employers and employees covering everything employers need to know when an employee returns to work after a suspension and how to cope and return to work as an employee returning from suspension.
Firstly, why are employee suspensions considered?
Reasons for Suspending an Employee
Suspension should be a last resort after all other reasonable options have been considered. For example, a temporary adjustment to the employee’s working arrangements can remove the need to suspend, e.g., being moved to a different area of the workplace. The reason for an employee being on suspension should be reviewed on an ongoing basis and be time-bound.
Reasons an employer might consider a suspension:
- As part of a disciplinary procedure – if there is a serious allegation of misconduct and alternatives to the suspension have been exhausted. Suspension should not be used as part of a disciplinary sanction, and no assumption of guilt should be brought to an employee who is suspended.
- On medical grounds – an employer has a duty to ensure the health and safety of its employees. In certain circumstances, it may be recommended that an individual employee is unfit to work with a particular hazard. Again, all alternative options should be exhausted before placing the employee on suspension.
- Due to the risk to an expectant or new mother – an employer should consider workplace risks such as heavy lifting, standing or sitting for long periods, exposure to toxic substances or working long hours for employees who are pregnant or have given birth in the past 6 months.
A suspension can have a damaging effect on the employee and their reputation. Therefore, the reason for suspension should be kept confidential, where possible.
Communicating a Suspension
If a suspension is necessary, here’s some guidance on how to suspend an employee from work in compliance with the law. The employee should be invited to a meeting to communicate the Company’s decision and what this means for the employee. Following the meeting, the employee should be issued with a suspension letter that includes:
- the reasons for the suspension and how long it’s expected to last
- their rights and obligations during the suspension, e.g. they should be contactable during normal working hours
- a point of contact (their line manager or HR) and their contact details for the employee during their suspension
In addition to this, an employee should be kept updated about their suspension, the reasons for it, and how long it is likely to last. Communication during suspensions really is key.
Communication During a Suspension
Regular contact should be maintained between the employee and their manager or point of contact throughout the suspension period. This also provides the employee with an opportunity to discuss their concerns.
There is no legal timeframe that an employee can be suspended; due to possible disciplinary action, the suspension needs to be long enough for a fair and thorough investigation to take place. If an employee is suspended from work due to their job posing a risk to their Health and Safety, then this period of suspension can be up to a period of 26 weeks on full pay, only if the employee has been employed with the company for a minimum of one month. If the suspension is longer than 26 weeks then the employee will not be paid for subsequent weeks.
Regardless of the duration, the employee is still considered employed and should be kept up-to-date with any investigation and progress.
Returning to Work
After a period of suspension, when the employer is ready to bring the employee back to work, communication is, again, key. Firstly, the employee must be contacted and advised that they need to return to work and when they are required to return to work. They must also be informed in writing as to what the next steps are following the suspension, whether the employee will be required to attend a disciplinary hearing following the investigation, or if no further action is required.
Remember: an employee can be dismissed from their job following a period of suspension if a full and fair disciplinary process has taken place. If a fair process is not followed then an employee could bring a claim against their employer to the employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.
If you reach a decision that suspension is no longer required, or the investigation has been completed and the employee may return to work, where possible, you should meet with the employee to confirm your decision. An employee may feel aggrieved about the suspension and/or worried about returning to work after suspension. Therefore, it is best practice for an employer to arrange a return-to-work meeting on the employee’s first day back. This will provide an opportunity to discuss and resolve any concerns and help the employee settle back into the workplace.
After any period of suspension, the employee should not be treated any differently regardless of the disciplinary action against them. As an employer, make sure you set a good example here, and provide the necessary support.
Conduct Following an Employee Suspension
Upon returning to work, an employee who has been suspended may feel uneasy and may be eager to make a positive impression. If the employee values their position in the company, they will make a concerted effort to do so. However, as the employer, you have the option to offer additional support by discussing with the employee how they can achieve their goals, such as setting objectives and KPIs.
Holding a meeting with them can help smooth their return to work and, also, offer them a vote of confidence. During this meeting, you could address various points such as how to communicate professionally and responsibly with managers and colleagues, the employee’s rights, and any restrictions or expectations upon their return.
Remember that returning to work after suspension can be an anxious time for the employee. They may feel uneasy and nervous and may want to get back into the swing of things as soon as possible. Your support can help ease their transition back into the workplace.
I’ve Been Suspended at Work, Will I Get Fired?
Suspension from work entails a temporary removal from work duties during misconduct allegations or pending investigations to protect workplace integrity. An employee’s rights typically include pay during suspension, and a fair investigation during this time and it does not always lead to being fired.
How Long Can You Be Suspended from Work Pending Investigation?
In the UK, the duration of a suspension during disciplinary procedures and investigations varies based on circumstances and complexity. However, it is generally advised to employers to keep suspensions as brief as possible, aiming for a reasonable and proportionate length to complete a fair and thorough investigation. There is no specific set time limit for how long a suspension can legally last, but it should be reasonable and not unduly prolonged. Both employers and employees are encouraged to act promptly to conclude the investigation and resolve the matter efficiently.
Length of Suspensions When Pregnant
Suspensions for pregnant employees should be in line with general employment law principles, focusing on fairness and legality. There still is not a specific mandated duration for suspensions in these circumstances; however, the suspension should still be reasonable, necessary, and proportionate to the situation at hand.
It’s crucial to avoid discriminatory practices and to treat pregnant employees fairly, ensuring compliance with anti-discrimination laws and taking their unique circumstances into account. Communication and consultation with the employee and seeking appropriate legal advice are vital during this process.
Suspended for Health and Safety or Medical Reasons
For a suspension to be made on health and safety or medical grounds, the employer must have genuine concerns about an employee’s ability to safely perform their duties. This precautionary measure is taken to protect the employee and others in the workplace from potential harm. The suspension is expected to be temporary and reasonable, allowing for necessary medical assessments or adjustments to be made. Employers must follow due process, consulting with medical professionals if needed, and ensuring that the suspension is proportionate and necessary for the protection of all parties involved. Additionally, an employer should strive for open communication and provide support to the affected employee during this period, facilitating a safe return to work when appropriate.
Pay While You Are Suspended
If an employee is suspended from work, they are usually entitled to receive their full normal pay during the suspension period unless their employment contract states otherwise. This is meant to protect the employee’s financial stability while the investigation or disciplinary process is ongoing. However, if the suspension extends beyond a reasonable duration or if the employment contract includes specific terms regarding pay during suspension, the situation may vary. Employers should adhere to employment law and contractual obligations, ensuring fairness and compliance throughout the suspension period.
What Are Your Employment Rights During a Suspension?
If you are suspended from work, your employment rights and entitlements may vary depending on the circumstances and the terms of your employment contract. Here are some key points to consider:
- Suspension Reasons and Process: Employers may suspend an employee for various reasons, such as pending investigation into allegations of misconduct or to protect the employee, colleagues, or company during an investigation.
- Notification and Information: Your employer should inform you of the reasons for your suspension and provide necessary information about the allegations or concerns being investigated.
- Pay and Benefits: During a suspension, your contract of employment continues, and you are entitled to your normal pay and benefits unless stated otherwise in your employment contract. Your employer should not withhold pay as a disciplinary measure.
- Length of Suspension: The length of a suspension will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the investigation. Your employer should keep the suspension under review and aim to resolve the matter promptly.
- Confidentiality and Privacy: Your employer should maintain confidentiality during the investigation to protect your privacy and reputation, however, they may need to share information with relevant parties involved in the investigation.
- Access to Evidence and Information: You should have an opportunity to present your side of the story and provide any relevant evidence during the investigation.
- Communication during Suspension: Your employer should keep you informed of the progress of the investigation and any decisions made related to your suspension.
- Return to Work: Once the investigation is completed, your employer will determine whether you can return to work based on the findings. If there are no adverse findings, you should be allowed to return to work without any detriment.
- Appeals: If the outcome of the investigation results in disciplinary action, you have the right to appeal the decision in line with your employer’s disciplinary procedures.
It’s essential to consult your employment contract and any relevant policies or procedures to fully understand your rights during a suspension.
11 Top Tips When Suspended from Work
Being suspended from work can be a stressful and challenging situation to navigate. Here are some top tips to help you manage this difficult period:
1. Stay Calm and Composed
It’s essential to remain calm and composed during this time. Panicking or reacting impulsively may worsen the situation. Take deep breaths and focus on maintaining a clear mind.
2. Understand the Situation
Try to understand the reason for your suspension. If it’s not clear, consider asking your employer for clarification. Understanding the cause can help you decide on the best course of action moving forward.
3. Review Company Policies and Procedures
Familiarise yourself with your company’s policies and procedures, especially those related to suspensions. Knowing your rights and responsibilities will empower you to make informed decisions.
4. Seek Legal Advice if Necessary
If you believe the suspension is unfair or unjust, consider consulting with an employment lawyer to understand your legal rights and potential options.
5. Maintain Professionalism
Even though you are suspended, maintain professionalism in your interactions with colleagues and supervisors. Avoid engaging in negative discussions or gossip about the situation.
6. Use the Time Productively
Consider using the time during your suspension productively. Update your resume, brush up on skills, or explore new job opportunities. This can help you feel proactive and prepared for the future.
7. Stay Connected with Colleagues
Keep in touch with your professional network and colleagues outside of the workplace. They can provide emotional support, guidance, and potentially even job leads during this challenging time.
8. Focus on Self-Care
Take care of your physical and mental well-being. Exercise, maintain a healthy diet, get enough rest, and engage in activities that help reduce stress and anxiety.
9. Prepare for a Return or Transition
Prepare for the possibility of returning to work or finding a new job. Update your resume, rehearse interview answers, and make a plan for how you will handle the situation when you’re back in the workplace.
10. Follow Up with Your Employer
After the suspension period, reach out to your employer to discuss the situation, understand their expectations, and determine the next steps. Open communication can help clarify any lingering concerns.
11. Learn and Grow from the Experience
Reflect on the circumstances that led to your suspension and identify areas for personal and professional growth. Use this as an opportunity to learn from the experience and improve your skills and behaviour in the workplace.
Remember, staying positive, professional, and proactive during a period of suspension is key to handling the situation effectively and potentially moving forward positively in your career.
If you need additional assistance or support regarding this issue, or if you require advice on other aspects of managing people, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our HR specialists. You can reach us at 0121 516 0299 or send us an email at email@example.com.
Has anyone returned to work after suspension?
Yes, many employees have returned to work after suspension. Suspensions are often used as a disciplinary measure, and in many cases, employees are allowed to return to work once the suspension period has ended, and any necessary conditions or requirements have been met.
Do employee suspensions lead to dismissals?
It depends on the severity of the incident and the company’s policies. In some serious cases, suspensions may lead to dismissals; but in most cases, this is not the case. Employees can be suspended for their own safety, for example, in these instances, there has been no disciplinary action against them.
What are an employee’s rights once they have been suspended from work?
In the UK, an employee who has been suspended from work has the right to be informed of the reasons for their suspension, the expected duration of the suspension, and whether they will continue to receive pay during the suspension period. The employee also has the right to challenge the suspension and to be given an opportunity to respond to any allegations made against them. Where appropriate, a trade union representative or a colleague is able to accompany the employee during any disciplinary meetings related to the suspension.
How long can an employee suspension last?
The length of an employee suspension can vary depending on the severity of the incident and the company’s policies. It can range from a few days to several weeks or even months.
What reasons can I be suspended from work?
In the UK, an employer can suspend an employee from work for various reasons, typically during disciplinary investigations, to protect the interests of the business or if there are concerns about the employee’s conduct or behaviour.
Could I face suspension during pregnancy?
No, you cannot be suspended solely due to pregnancy. Such action would constitute discrimination under UK employment law, which provides protection for pregnant employees. However, pregnant women can be suspended for other reasons such as health and safety concerns.
Is it permissible to undergo suspension without receiving payment?
It is not permissible under UK employment law to suspend an employee without pay, except in specific circumstances explicitly stated in the employment contract or with the employee’s consent.
Do my employment rights get affected during a suspension?
While suspended, your basic employment rights, such as the right to fair treatment and protection from discrimination, remain intact. However, certain rights related to work (e.g. access to the workplace) may be temporarily restricted during the suspension.
Is suspension considered a form of disciplinary action for wrongdoing?
Suspension is a precautionary measure and is not considered a disciplinary action itself. It allows the employer to conduct a thorough investigation before making a decision on disciplinary action.
Does suspension invariably result in termination?
Suspension does not automatically lead to termination. The outcome of the investigation following the suspension will determine whether disciplinary action, including termination, is warranted.
What rights do I retain when suspended from my job?
While suspended, you retain rights to fair treatment, protection from discrimination, and other basic employment rights. You also have the right to participate in any investigation into the allegations against you.
Am I allowed to seek employment elsewhere during a suspension?
Typically, you are not prohibited from seeking employment elsewhere during a suspension unless your employment contract specifically states otherwise or if there are exceptional circumstances.
Is it possible to take stress leave while being under suspension?
While suspended, you can potentially take stress leave if the suspension and the associated circumstances significantly impact your mental health. However, it’s essential to consult with your employer and a healthcare professional to navigate this situation appropriately.