Revised ACAS guidance on suspending employees

Following recently revised ACAS guidance on suspending employees, we are urging our clients, more than ever, to be cautious about suspending employees pending investigations, and to seek our advice first.

If you are adjudged to have unreasonably suspended an employee, you could be breaching the implied term of mutual trust and confidence. This could entitle the employee to claim constructive dismissal.

The new ACAS guidance incorporates the principles that should govern any decision you make to suspend. It also details the process that you should go through before doing so.

What can you do to protect your business?

You need to understand what you would do if you were ever challenged by a court or tribunal on your decision to suspend. You should be able to show you considered it carefully and you sought to comply with these five major steps in the decision-making process:

* deciding whether to suspend someone;
* investigating the situation;
* considering whether you need to suspend;
* alternatives to suspension; and
* making the decision.

The revised ACAS guidance on suspending employees puts a huge responsibility on you – the employer to take the decision to suspend very seriously and to consider the impact the suspension can have on individuals’ mental health and wellbeing.

The guidance advises you, the employer not to “use suspension automatically”. It advises you “to avoid suspension if possible”. And it says you should only suspend if there is “no other option”. It goes onto say if you decide to suspend, you should “plan what support you’ll provide” to the suspended employee.

In practical terms, you should no longer view suspension as a ‘neutral act’. Accordingly, it can have a serious effect not only on an individual’s work, but possibly their future career as well. We are not suggesting that you should not ever suspend employees when you carry out an investigation. In the right circumstances, it is often the correct course of action. For example to ensure evidence is preserved or witnesses are not interfered with. But it does mean that you should consider the suspension process very carefully.

You should keep written records of the steps you have taken in deciding whether to suspend an individual. You should also be able to show the steps you have taken to safeguard the mental wellbeing of the suspended individual. Essentially, you should be able to indicate compliance with the guidance. In addition, you should be able to demonstrate compliance with the implied duty of maintaining trust and confidence with the suspended person.

Cluer HR can help

If you are considering suspending an employee pending an investigation and would like advice on whether it is the right course of action and what evidence you should keep of the decision making process, Cluer HR can help. Contract our professional advisers on 01386 751740 or info@cluerhrsolutions.co.uk

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