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Suspension Is Not A Neutral Act – And Here’s Why

At Herefords, we quite often help companies deal with suspending their employees.

This isn’t a process anyone particularly likes, and it’s certainly not comfortable to deal with as HR personnel, but it’s something that has to be done. Over the years we have noticed one thing that tends to come up time and time again, and like all problems, it’s located where you least expect it. In the paperwork. Today we want to tell you what that issue is, and how to avoid it yourself.

‘Suspension Is A Neutral Act’

When you suspend someone, you will have to send out a letter that reiterates your disciplinary policy and explains what is happening now. A lot of companies use templates for this, and within that template there will be the line: ‘Suspension is a neutral act’

This is designed to reassure the employee that even though they are being suspended, they are not being assumed guilty or punished just yet. It’s supposed to mean that the company are investigating an allegation or suspicion, and feel the employee shouldn’t be present while they do that. It is designed to stop them interfering, but also to ensure their reputation isn’t damaged in the process. Logically, that all sounds very reasonable, but the fact is that suspending an employee is rarely a neutral act.

Suspension Is Anything But Neutral

When an employee is suspended, everyone who comes into contact with them knows they have been suspended. From colleagues to clients and suppliers, they assume the employee must have done something seriously wrong in order to warrant a suspension. This alone takes the suspension away from being neutral, to being something detrimental and punitive.

This is currently being showcased in the case of Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth. Ms Agoreyo was a schoolteacher, and was suspended following an allegation of unreasonable behaviour. During her suspension she resigned, and challenged the legal grounds of the suspension. While she lost the original case, an appeal is now being heard by the Crown Court, who think the suspension was a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the allegations and a punitive measure, not a neutral one. The case is still going on now, and it’s one that could be very important for solicitors and HR professionals to take note of.

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Always Stay On The Right Side!

Of course, handling things like suspensions, suspicions of gross misconduct and contract breach can be tricky, especially if you’re running a small HR department. If you’re having issues with staff, policies or procedures, particularly around suspension and keeping it neutral, or just struggling to understand what you need to do to be compliant, it doesn’t hurt to get a little help and advice from the employment law experts. At Herefords, we offer hands-on, practical advice and guidance around all elements of employment law. Our service is all about guiding you through the minefield, helping you to understand the law and how it applies to your business, including any new changes that come in. And thanks to our new Employment Law Retainer, you can be confident that your key HR decisions and advice are compliant and appropriate. You can find out more about our employment law retainer by clicking here.

Or for more information on handling issues in the workplace, you can get in touch with us and book your free consultation.

Zahir Mohammed
Employment Solicitor
0203 669 2216


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