Suspension: Common Traps to Avoid
We often hear from Employers that they have suspended someone due to an incident at work and unless the Employer has followed the correct process, it can be risky. Suspension is full of traps that Employees can fall into, including:
1. Suspension based on emotion
As human beings, managers can reach their limit when dealing with inappropriate Employee behaviours. However, suspending an Employee because of several unsuitable actions that all add up to "I've had enough" is not a strong enough reason to suspend under employment legislation.
2. Suspension that is not necessary
Suspending an Employee from work should be treated very seriously, not lightly. The decision to suspend should only be considered when the Employee's presence in the workplace could give rise to a significant issue. Examples of this are a risk to safety of others or a significant risk to the company.
3. Suspension done incorrectly
To suspend an Employee, there is a strict process that must be followed to avoid risk and liability. The process must be:
- Procedurally correct and justifiable in the circumstances,
- fair and reasonable and
- in alignment with the relevant contractual provisions and relevant company policies.
For example, if there is a certain process for suspension outlined in an employment agreement which is not followed, it could be challenged by an Employee's representative.
4. Paid and unpaid suspension mixed up
Whether suspension is on full pay or whether the suspension is unpaid will largely depend on the situation, whether the suspension is due to a disciplinary matter or whether it is due to strike action. Either way, Employers are best to seek advice and avoid making an inaccurate decision.
5. Inaccurate communication
Communication during a suspension process must be crystal clear. There is no room for errors and there are several key points that must be communicated from Employer to Employee, whether verbally, in writing or both. It's not uncommon for an Employee who has been suspended on full pay due to a serious allegation to inaccurately perceive the situation as the end of their employment, which can create issues for the Employer if they do not have evidence to contrary.
It's also important that if an Employee is suspended due to a serious misconduct allegation and after investigation, the allegation is found to be unjustifiable, the Employee can return to the workplace without issue.
There is a minefield of considerations associated with suspension so Employers are best to seek advice prior to entering into this process to ensure it is correct and any risk and liability is minimised.