New Acas guidance on suspending employees during investigations.

New Acas guidance on suspending employees during investigations.

Acas has recently published new guidelines for employers who are considering suspending employees during investigations at work. The new guidance can be found here.

The most common instance where an employer may consider suspending an employee is where there is an ongoing disciplinary or grievance investigation. However, it is important to remember that suspending an employee does not automatically mean that the employee has done anything wrong and should not be used as a punitive measure. 

Suspending employees should be the last resort where no other option is available and it is necessary. For example, where allowing the employee to remain in the workplace would harm the disciplinary investigation or where there is a genuine risk to customers, property or business interests. Suspension may also be required in order to protect other staff members or the person under investigation. 

In order to ensure suspension is a reasonable course of action and does not breach the employment contract, employers should consider whether there are any viable temporary alternatives. For example, short-term changes to the individual’s shift patterns or work site may avoid the need for a full suspension whilst an investigation is ongoing, as could temporarily limiting the individual’s access to certain systems or tools. 

Where an external body, such as the police or regulatory body, is looking into the matter, suspension is not automatically required. However, employers should assess the relevance of such involvement to its own investigation when making a suspension decision.

Being subject to a suspension from work can be a stressful experience and so employers should consider the well-being and mental health before suspending employees, both before and during suspension. Plans should be made by the employer to provide them relevant support. 

Employees may wish to challenge their suspension from work. Acas recommends this is done on an informal basis initially, though the formal grievance route should also remain open should the issue not be resolved satisfactorily.

Ultimately, Acas present the suspension route as a last resort for employers but they may be right to do so given the inherent risk of complaints and litigation that can stem from such a decision. As with almost all decisions, employers (and their advisors) should be mindful of measuring their actions against the two ever-present yardsticks of employment law: reasonableness and proportionality. 

Didlaw has expertise on both sides of the decision to suspend. Our solicitors are experienced at navigating the suspension procedure with employees and advising where an employer’s use of suspension may be considered unfair and/or discriminatory. Equally, we are able to guide employers on how to keep their suspending employee decision fair and avoid claims against them when making such decisions. 

This blog was written by Michael Green, Trainee Solicitor at didlaw.