Can an Employer suspend an employee, pending an investigation?
The simple answer is yes, you can suspend an employee pending an investigation, but it should be done for valid and justifiable reasons, and the process should adhere to established procedures and principles of fairness. Here are some key points to consider:
• Reasonable Grounds: To suspend an employee, there should be reasonable grounds for believing that suspension is necessary. Common reasons include allegations of serious misconduct, investigations into potential criminal activity, or the need to protect the interests of the business.
• Notice and Communication: You should inform the employee of the suspension in writing, specifying the reasons for the suspension and its expected duration. The suspension letter should also invite the employee to attend a meeting, often called an investigatory meeting.
• Pay during Suspension: Employees should typically continue to receive full pay and benefits during the suspension period. However, employers have the discretion to withhold additional payments such as commission and bonus payments in certain circumstances, such as in cases of gross misconduct.
• Regular Review: The suspension should be regularly reviewed to ensure it remains necessary. If it is no longer required, you should inform the employee and allow them to return to work.
• Fair Treatment: It is crucial to treat employees fairly and consistently during the suspension, following your organisation’s policies and procedures. Avoid prejudging the situation or creating an atmosphere of bias.
• Confidentiality: Both you and the employee should maintain confidentiality during the suspension to avoid prejudicing the investigation or disciplinary process.
• Legal and Policy Compliance: Ensure that your actions are in line with UK employment law, your organisation’s policies, and any applicable collective agreements.
Suspension and Investigation Procedure
The employee’s immediate Manager should suspend and hold the investigations. If possible, a different Manager or Director should hold the disciplinary meeting if & when it reaches that stage. Again, if possible, a further Director would hear the appeal to disciplinary meeting.
The employee should be called to an office and explained the reasons for the suspension and that a full investigation will commence immediately. Remind the employee that they are suspended on full pay and that all benefits are still in place.
Explain that this is a precautionary measure to allow a fair and impartial investigation to be carried out. Stress that this is no way prejudged and that the employee will have the opportunity to explain.
Give the employee the ‘Suspension Letter’ and let them know that their suspension will be regularly reviewed to ensure it remains necessary.
Gather as much information as possible, including any documentation from previous incidents.
Interview and take minutes from anyone that has been involved. Ensure that the investigating officer has a management representative with them and that the person being interviewed is given the opportunity to be accompanied if so wishes.
The employee has to be invited to an investigatory meeting so that any explanation can be heard.
‘Invite to Investigation’ to be sent out, giving at least 48 hours’ notice for the employee to prepare.
At the meeting ensure everything is in the minutes and that the employee is made aware of the process and where the employee and the Company is in the process.
• suspended on full pay
• investigatory meeting with people concerned with minutes taken
• other evidence i.e. reports etc.
• Investigatory meeting with the employee
Explain that the outcome of the investigation will be sent out to the Employee in writing once the outcomes have been collated and a decision has been made. If there is ‘a case to answer ‘in which case a disciplinary meeting will take place of which the employee will be informed and supplied with all the relevant documentation. However if there is ‘no case to answer’ then the employee will return to work.
Further guidance from The HR Team will be required once this stage is completed. All further letters will be drafted by The HR Team.
The next stage:
• letter sent to Employee stating the findings and outcome of the investigatory meeting
• If a there is a case to answer, letter to Employee inviting to a disciplinary meeting with copies of all evidence, reports and investigatory notes. (This enables the Employee to organise their defence)
Remember that suspension is a serious step and should not be used lightly. It’s essential to follow due process and act reasonably.
If you’re uncertain about whether to suspend an employee or how to proceed, contact The HR Team for down-to earth, pragmatic advice and dedicated support throughout the entire process.