An employer can only suspend an employee in limited circumstances, which include:
- where an employee’s behaviour is under disciplinary investigation and having them at work may compromise the investigation or cause further issues, for example, if the employee is suspected of fraud, they may need to be removed to protect the workplace during the investigation.
- where the employee poses a risk to health and safety, for example, if the employee works in a safety-sensitive area and is under the influence of drugs/alcohol or is not in a fit emotional state to do their job safely.
It is good practice to have a clause in the employment agreement or to have suspension covered in workplace policies. In some situations it is possible to suspend without a clause, although it can be more difficult.
A suspension is a drastic measure that should not be lightly undertaken. It should not be used as a disciplinary tool - the length of the suspension should reflect the time needed to conduct the investigation or the time needed to reduce the health and safety risk, so the employer should not let it drag on.
Process of suspending an employee
The employer should follow a fair process when deciding to suspend the employee. However, there may be some rare exceptions when an employer may not have to give the employee an opportunity to comment on the concerns eg where there could be an immediate danger to the employee or to others or the employee is unable to perform safety-sensitive work.
Generally, if the employer does not follow a fair process or have a good reason for the suspension, the employee may have a personal grievance against the employer.
Pay while on suspension
Any suspension should be on full pay. Suspension without pay can only be considered if it is specifically provided for in the employment agreement.