‘If you are considering the suspension of an employee, please contact your local People and Change Manager for advice prior to making your decision’
Suspension is not a disciplinary measure, but can cause concern to both the employee and the team in which they work. As such, it should not be used without very careful consideration, and generally with advice from People and Change Managers/ Heads of People and Change and Senior Management authorisation.
The purpose of suspension is to enable a full and fair investigation to take place.
Where an individual needs to be removed from their normal duties/workplace, to enable the investigation to take place, consideration should be given to restriction of duties or a temporary alternative location as alternatives to suspension.
It is essential to ensure that the suspension period is kept to a minimum and regularly reviewed. Failure to do so can result in additional stress and anxiety being incurred by the suspended employee.
The following situations provide examples where suspension might be used:
Where a disciplinary offence is alleged to have taken place and an investigation is required. It may be that a person against whom allegations have been made could be seen to either interfere with or influence an investigation if they were at work.
Where a manager feels that an individual is unfit for duty and that they may be a danger to patients, themselves or to others and believes it is in everyone’s best interest, then suspension should take place with an urgent referral to the Occupational Health Service.
Where it is suspected that an individual is under the influence of either alcohol or drugs it would be inappropriate for a manager to attempt to investigate the circumstances immediately. Therefore suspension is a short term measure to remove the employee from the workplace, but requires the manager to invite them to a fact finding discussion as soon as possible after which the individual may have their suspension extended until the conclusion of a formal investigation.
Points to Consider:
- Notification of suspension should be delivered in person, normally by the individual’s line manager. Security items, e.g. keys, must be handed in at this point. The suspending manager should send a letter confirming the suspension within 5 days of the notification, stating the reasons for suspension.
- It may be that the suspension has to be communicated to an employee who is working outside of normal working hours, e.g. nightshift, weekends. In this instance, the employee’s line manager, or an appointed deputy manager will attend the workplace as soon as possible to meet with the employee on site, and give the employee enough time to be accompanied by a colleague or representative. The suspending manager should send a letter confirming the suspension within 5 days of the notification, stating the reasons for suspension.
- Temporarily transferring the member of staff to another work location should be considered as an alternative to suspension if the alleged conduct issue is not deemed a risk to patients or other employees.
- In cases of suspected gross misconduct, lack of suspension may suggest the offence was not regarded as serious and this may weaken management’s case later if it should go to an Employment Tribunal. However, suspension should not be an automatic response in these circumstances and the merits of suspension must be considered.
- Wherever possible, the individual should have the opportunity to seek support, from a friend/colleague/trade union representative/professional organisation, before suspension takes place, and for this person to accompany them when the suspension is being communicated. The individual should have the suspension process explained to them and advised to contact their Trade Union representative or professional organisation for support, if they choose not to be supported during suspension.
- Suspension can lead to a feeling of isolation for the individual, particularly as they are cut off from their colleagues. Also there may be delays in the investigation and this can cause additional anxiety. Managers should be aware of this and where possible advise the individual of the support available, e.g. staff representation, staff counselling through Occupational Health Service. A neutral person who is not involved in the case; i.e. another manager or another HR rep will be allocated as a contact to support and link with the individual. The contact person will be in regular touch with the member of staff, even if this is to inform them that there has been no development and that the investigation still continues. The name of this contact manager will also be contained in the letter of suspension.
- The Manager must ensure that the relevant Director is aware of the suspension when appropriate.
- If a suspension is to continue for more than 4 weeks then the manager would be required to issue a second letter confirming the continued suspension and giving the reasons for the delay in bringing the process to an end.
- Suspensions of more than 12 weeks will be followed up with a further extension letter giving the reasons for the delay and these reasons and the delay must be reported to the Director of HR&OD.
- Staff on suspension should not work on the bank, therefore the person should be advised of this when informed of their suspension.
- During suspension, the individual must be available during normal working hours to receive telephone calls or attend meetings. If telephone messages are left, it is expected that the individual will return the call within 24 hours.
- If the individual is not going to be available due to a pre-booked holiday or some other reason, they should seek authorisation for the leave from their line manager or through the confidential contact, whichever is more appropriate.
- If it is decided that a suspension should be concluded prior to the end of an investigation, due to reasons determined during the investigation, the employee should be issued with a letter ending the suspension and returning them to the workplace, with support as appropriate.
- If an employee becomes ill during the period of suspension, the employee should revert from suspension to sick leave. However the rules associated with suspension would continue to apply and the employee would revert back to suspension on expiry of sick leave if the investigatory process is still ongoing. The suspending manager should write to the employee to confirm this at the earliest opportunity.