Returning to Work After Suspension | What Employers Need To Know

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 employees’ 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.

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 timebound.

Reasons an employer might consider a suspension;

  • As part of a disciplinary procedure – if there is a serious allegation of misconduct and alternatives to suspension have been exhausted. There should be no assumption of guilt associated with a suspension and suspension must not be used as a disciplinary sanction.
  • 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 alterative options should be exhausted before placing the employee on suspension.
  • Due to risk to an expectant or new mother – an employer should consider work place 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 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. If it is necessary to explain the employee’s absence, an employer should discuss with the employee how they would like it to be explained to colleagues and/or customers.

If suspension is necessary, 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; and
  • the purpose of suspension is to investigate and is not an assumption of guilt.

An employee should be kept updated about their suspension, the reasons for it, and how long it is likely to last. 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.

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. 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.

If you would like further guidance or support on this matter or require advice on other people management matters please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

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