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. 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 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 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; and

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.

There is no legal timeframe that an employee can be suspended for due to possible disciplinary action, as 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, 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.

After a period of suspension, when the employer is ready to bring the employee back to work, the employee must be contacted and advised that they need to return to work and when they are required to return to work. The employee also must 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.

Any period of suspension for employees should not be treated as any type of disciplinary action against them.

An employee can be dismissed from their job following a period of suspension, if a full and fair disciplinary process has taken place following the suspension.

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.

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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