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Suspension – worth the risk?
A recent case in the Court of Appeal has emphasised the risks of suspending an employee without good cause. Whilst many employers automatically suspend employees accused of more serious allegations, doing so without considering the full circumstances could be an expensive mistake.
In the case of Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Lambeth v Agoreyo an allegation was made that a teacher had used unreasonable force against children displaying particularly challenging behaviour. The teacher was suspended pending an investigation. The letter suspending her indicated that suspension was considered a neutral act and was not itself a disciplinary sanction; however she brought a claim arguing that her suspension was a repudiatory breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence.
Employers have a duty not to act in a way which is calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence between employer and employee. Suspension can often cause lasting damage to an employee’s reputation with colleagues, clients and third parties – so there is clear potential for breach of this duty. Employers should take particular care to ensure that they have reasonable and proper cause to justify suspension and that it is not simply done as a knee-jerk reaction.
In this case, it was apparent that an investigation needed to take place into very serious allegations and the employer had to consider the interests of very young children. While the Court of Appeal ultimately supported the decision to suspend, the case gives useful guidance on the law in this area.
If you are thinking of suspending an employee, you should ensure:
- You have reasonable and proper cause;
- Suspension is a last resort;
- The employee is told the reason for suspension and that it is not a disciplinary sanction (for this reason we advise suspension should be paid); and
- Suspension is kept under review and ended promptly when no longer necessary.
If you would like further advice, contact our specialist employment team on 01392 207020 or e-mail email@example.com.