1. Definition of employee suspension
Suspension is a serious punishment. Suspension is a common practice in the workplace for being in violation of company policy. Employees have to stop temporary from work.
In simple words it means the employee is given involuntary time off without pay.
An employee is suspended only after a proper enquiry has been conducted.
Suspension is defined as,“ the placing of an employee, for disciplinary reasons, in a temporary status without duties and pay”
An employee is suspended during the investigation period whenever there is a major or serious charge against such employee.
The intension behind suspension is obvious as suspension prevents the suspended employee from interfering in the concerned matters, or from making any changes in the documents, or influencing the witnesses, if any.
Thus the suspended employee is kept away from doing his job or duties.
However, that employee gets some subsistence allowance ie, lesser percentage of salary during the tenure of suspension.
If he is found guilty, he is discharged or dismissed. But if he is found not guilty, he is reinstated and gets the difference of salary, arrears and remains in the employment.
2. Types of Suspension
It is generally accepted that there are two types of employment suspensions.
a] Preventive Suspension
Preventive suspension is defined as,” The temporary removal of an employee charged for violation of company rules from his present status or position”.
Preventive suspension [or removing an employee from the work place] is usually imposed against subject employee while the company is conducting an investigation for his alleged violation if the accused employee is likely to interfere with the evidence; and in order to prevent him from causing further harm or damage to the company, to his co employees or to the investigation of disciplinary charges.
Preventive suspension is not a disciplinary measure, and should not be confused with suspension as a penalty.
The employer may place a worker under preventive suspension only if his continued employment poses a serious and imminent threat to the life or property of the employer or his co workers.
Maximum Period of Preventive Suspension
The maximum period of preventive suspension under the rule is 30 days. After that period, the worker must be reinstated to his former position, or in a substantially equivalent position. If the employer does not want to reinstate his employee for whatever reason, he has the option to extend the period of suspension with the condition that he must pay the worker his wages and other benefits during the entire period of extension.
The latter option is called payroll reinstatement (as opposed to the former which is called actual reinstatement).
Payment of Wages during Preventive Suspension
The employee placed under preventive suspension is not entitled to payment of wages. This rule, however, presupposes that the suspension is valid. If the suspension is invalid or illegal, the employee shall be entitled to payment of wages during the entire period of illegal suspension
Likewise, if the suspension is extended beyond the 30-day limit, the employee shall be entitled to wages and other benefits for the period of the extension.
When Preventive Suspension amounts to Constructive Dismissal
When preventive suspension exceeds the maximum period allowed without reinstating the employee either by actual or payroll reinstatement.
b] Punitive suspension
Punitive suspension involves the employee being instructed by the employer to not to come to work. Punitive suspension is used as an alternative for dismissal, after being proved guilty during disciplinary action.
“Punitive suspension” refers to the practice of suspending an employee as a disciplinary action.
Punitive suspension is without pay and therefore it serves as a punishment for the employee.
The most fundamental difference between the two types is that preventative suspensions ought to be paid leave whilst punitive suspensions, as the name suggests, are unpaid leave.
3. When do you use suspension?
a] Desertion of duty.
b] Deliberate refusal to carry out written orders.
c] Where the continuance of the employee at workplace may endanger industrial peace and harmony and peace as well.
d] Where preliminary enquiry into allegations has revealed a prima facie case justifying criminal or departmental enquiry, which are likely to lead to his conviction or/ dismissal.
e] Where the employee is suspected to have engaged himself in activities prejudicial to the interest of the security of the company.
f] An offence of conduct involving moral turpitude.
g] Where the continuance of the employee may endanger industrial peace or security.
h] Where continuance of the employee may prejudice investigation-tampering documents/witnesses.
i] Where the continuance of the employee may be against the interest of industry or its employees.
J] Corruption, embezzlement, theft or misappropriation of company money.
k] Serious negligence resulting in considerable loss to the company.
4. Principles of suspension
a] If the suspension is a punitive suspension, it should only be adopted following a formal disciplinary action in which dismissal was a reasonable and appropriate sanction.
b] Ensure that the suspension period is reasonable; a number of Court decisions have dealt with suspensions that last two years or more, which are likely to be held to be unfair.
c] Include suspension clauses in your employment agreements to ensure that a suspension does not amount to a common law breach of contract.
d] If the suspension is a preventative suspension, you must pay the employee throughout the suspended period.
e] To ensure the process is not unfair, you ought to consult with employees prior to a preventative suspension to give them an opportunity to respond to the decision to suspend.
Does the employer have the right to suspend an employee?
It depends on the circumstances.
An employer may suspend an employee for reasons relating to an investigation of an employee’s action, like misconduct. The suspension should not be used as a disciplinary tool – the length of the suspension should reflect the time needed to conduct the investigation, so the employer should not let it drag on.
It is best practice to suspend an employee only where there is a term in the employment agreement giving power to do so. While in some exceptional circumstances an employer may be able to suspend an employee even though there is no such term, it may be harder for the employer to justify the suspension.
When an employer is considering whether or not to suspend, the employer should tell the employee of the possibility of suspension, why suspension is being considered, and give the employee an opportunity to comment on the possible suspension.
Any suspension should be on full pay. Suspension without pay can only be considered if it is specifically provided for in the employment agreement.
An employer may suspend an employee where an employee has gone on strike.
Verbal or written reprimands generally precede suspensions. Employees who fail to correct their behaviors after being warned may be temporarily removed from their jobs. The length of a suspension typically dependst on the time needed to conduct an investigation. Employees are either transferred out of the department or prohibited from the work site altogether to prevent tampering of evidence, witness intimidation and future harm to co-workers.
Employment in most states is at-will, meaning employers can discharge employees at any time for any reason. However, discharges are often the result of employee misconduct and may occur immediately or after reprimands, suspensions and or demotions. The severity of the act often determines the level of discipline necessary. For example, employees may be discharged immediately if they steal a laptop, but only reprimanded for stealing pens.