Suspension from work - a guide for employees

If you’ve been suspended from work, or you have been threatened with suspension from work, then you will want to learn about your suspension rights

Read our guide on your rights relating to suspension below

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What does it mean if I am suspended from work?

Being suspended from work means your employer has notified you that you are prohibited from accessing your workplace. Whilst you are on suspension you remain employed but will be asked not to attend your place of work or engage in any work. The reason for suspension from work is usually in order to enable an investigation to take place. Suspension should be used with caution and generally the more serious the allegation against the employee the more care should be taken before deciding to suspend.

Suspension from work is commonly part of the employer’s disciplinary procedures based on terms laid down in the employment contract or works rules which may form part of the contract. Even if your employment contract does not contain the right to suspend if there is a sufficient reason and you will not suffer a detriment from suspension then it will likely be deemed reasonable.

If you have been wrongfully suspended without pay, you may have a claim for damages in relation to unpaid wages (Hanley v Pease & Partners [1915] 1 KB 698).

Why have I been suspended?

There could be a number of reasons why your employer may want to suspend you from work.  The most common reason for the employer to suspend is in order to carry out disciplinary procedures although there may be other reasons including:

  • To prevent you carrying on the alleged gross misconduct
  • You pose a potential threat to the business or other employees
  • To allow your employer to investigate the potential disciplinary matter without any interference
  • Your job is posing a risk to your health and safety.
  • To prevent you from interacting with other employees or clients of the business
  • If you are pregnant and your employer cannot provide you with a reasonable and safe alternative job.

How should I be suspended?

If suspension from work is deemed to be necessary, you should be provided with a work suspension letter that includes:

  • Why you are being suspended and how long it is expected to last
  • Your rights and responsibilities during the work suspension (such as being contactable during normal working hours)
  • Your point of contact and their contact details (such as your line manager or HR person)
  • That the purpose of your suspension from work is to investigate the matter and is not an automatic assumption of guilt

Will I get paid whilst I am suspended from work?

Whilst you are on suspension from work you will normally receive full pay however this can depend on what your employment contract or work policy states. It may also depend on the timing of your suspension. If, for instance, you were off work on statutory sick pay during this time, then you are likely to only be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP), however this may be open to challenge if you become sick during a period of work suspension.

If your contract of employment gives you the right to full pay during your period of suspension, then payment of SSP by the employer could give you the right to make a claim for unlawful deductions from wages.

Generally, employers will suspend an employee on full pay to ensure the suspension from work is not seen as punishment which could lead to accusations that the disciplinary procedure was not fair. If you are not suspended on full pay then this may mean that you have been unfairly suspended from work.

How long will I be suspended for?

The duration of your suspension will depend on several factors such as the number and availability of any witnesses and the amount of information that needs to be gathered as part of the investigation. Generally, your suspension should be as brief as possible to prevent as little inconvenience to you and your suspension from work should be regularly reviewed to ensure it is still needed. Your employer should also take care to follow the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. If you are suspended without any reasonable grounds or for unreasonably longer than what it should take to carry out the investigation you might be able to claim for constructive dismissal.

Can I challenge the work suspension?

In some situations, you may be able to challenge your suspension. You could seek clarification on why the decision to suspend you has been made and argue that the suspension from work is unreasonable. Alternatively, you could make a formal challenge against your employer by filing a grievance. It is unlikely that filing a grievance would result in the lifting of the suspension if the suspension was reasonable in the first place. However, it could result in speeding up the process and allow you to gain a resolution much quicker.

In very rare situations, it may be possible for you to apply for an injunction to prevent your suspension. This type of action is very expensive would generally only be considered where the suspension is in breach of your contract of employment, or where your suspension from work throws doubt on your capability and reputation as a professional in your field.

Will I be able to contact other work colleagues whilst suspended?

Regular contact should be maintained between you and your employer or line manager during your period of suspension. It is important for a suspended employee to be supported during this time and be able to discuss any concerns they may have.

However, whether you can communicate with other staff while on suspension from work will usually depend on the terms of your work suspension. It is common for an employer to ask a suspended employee not to make contact with employees whilst they are on suspension. The reasons for this are to avoid the risk that you may try to put pressure on, or influence your work colleagues, who may be asked to act as witnesses as part of the investigation, and to ensure that confidentiality is retained. If you fail to observe this request, you could be open to separate disciplinary action. Your employer should be reasonable if you wish to contact work colleagues as part of your own defence or in response to allegations made against you.

If you would like to contact a work colleague you should follow these steps:

  • write to your employer and ask permission to contact the individual
  • explain why contacting the individual is necessary
  • wait for your employer to confirm that you are allowed to contact the individual

Am I able to go on holiday if I am suspended from work?

If you want to go on holiday during your workplace suspension, you can request annual leave as you would normally do. However, your employer may have reasonable grounds not to agree to this as a suspended employee will generally be expected to be contactable and available to attend any relevant investigation or disciplinary meetings. If you have already booked a holiday before your suspension from work has begun, your employer must give you sufficient notice before seeking to cancel your leave.

Can my employer suspend me on medical or pregnancy grounds?

Your employer can suspend you for medical reasons based on their duty to take reasonable steps to protect your health and safety and where it is not possible for them to provide a safe working environment or make suitable arrangements to resolve the problem. In such cases your employer can suspend you for up to 26 weeks on full pay if you have worked for longer than one month (if it goes beyond this period, it will be unpaid).  It is important to note that if you refuse alternative suitable work offered by the employer you would lose your right to be paid.

If you are pregnant your employer should take reasonable steps to remove or reduce the risk of any hazards to you and your baby. The employer in these circumstances should carry out a risk assessment in line with guidance produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Protecting new and expectant mothers at work – Risk assessment (hse.gov.uk).  If agreement can’t be reached to resolve the issue the employer can suspend you on full pay for as long as you or your baby remain at risk or danger.

How we advise on suspension from work

At Redmans we have vast knowledge and experience in advising employees in this situation.

Suspension from work often leads to disciplinary action, so it is important you take legal advice before you reach that stage in proceedings.  Once you have been subjected to legal action and have had penalties imposed against you it can have a detrimental effect on your reputation and future job prospects. If you have been unfairly suspended from work we can offer you expert legal advice, and where necessary, advise on any potential severance package and/or negotiate a settlement agreement with your employer.