Annex A: Guidance on Suspension
1 Suspension is an emotive term and, although it is not of itself disciplinary action, it can be seen by both the individual and others as having negative connotations, including implied guilt. Before deciding to suspend an employee, the manager should assess the degree of risk involved (i.e. whether the employee poses a risk to clinical, financial or staff governance). As an alternative, in some situations, it might be appropriate to arrange a temporary redeployment to another work area or role during the course of the investigation, to limit the duties of the individual or to put in place additional supervision of work. Such considerations should always be given in terms of how to mitigate risk during the course of the investigation, with such options having been exhausted before determining the need to suspend as a last resort. This does not preclude circumstances as set out below where the purpose of the suspension is to take the heat out of the immediate situation.
2 If the purpose of the suspension is to take the heat out of a situation, it may not be necessary for the individual to remain on suspension until the whole investigation is complete.
3 The following situations provide examples where suspension might be used:
- Where a disciplinary offence is alleged to have taken place and an investigation is required. It may be that a person against whom allegations have been made could be seen to either interfere with or influence an investigation if they were at work;
- Where it is suspected that an individual is under the influence of either alcohol or drugs;
- Where there is a need to remove an employee from the premises to cool down (e.g. where staff have been fighting, although it may be necessary to suspend both employees in this example);
- Where allegations are made of bullying or harassment and it is considered necessary for whatever reason that neither the accuser nor the accused attends work; or
- Where there is an allegation of abuse of patients, especially children or vulnerable adults.
4 Where there is to be an investigation by Counter Fraud Services, CFS should normally be consulted before suspending an employee. CFS may wish to make recommendations regarding the timing of the suspension in the interests of securing the integrity of any potential evidence.
5 A designated Contact Officer (a neutral person) should be identified in the case of employees who are suspended. The Contact Officer is a named individual with responsibility to act as a recognised point of contact for any issues the employee may wish to raise. The nature of suspension is such that the individual should not enter the premises unless requested by management or their trade union/professional organisation (subject to agreement by management), or contact others within the Board. This can isolate individuals from their normal organisational support mechanisms. Not all employees will be a member of a trade union/professional organisation and therefore receive support through such channels.
6 The following guidelines should apply to suspension:
- Where possible, advice should be sought prior to suspension from the HR department;
- An individual's line manager, or the responsible manager onsite, will normally carry out suspension. Where practicable, another manager or an HR representative should be present to act as a witness to the suspension;
- Where practicable, employees should be given reasonable notice to organise representation;
- Written confirmation should be given within two working days, stating the reasons for the suspension, the designated Contact Officer and any particular restrictions on access to Board premises, return of keys and parking permits etc.;
- Suspension will always be on full pay when related to matters of alleged employee misconduct (i.e. pay the employee would have received if at work, including the average of enhancements, if applicable);
- Suspension will always be for as short a period as is possible. The investigation should be completed, and if relevant the disciplinary hearing held, within an agreed timescale. Only in exceptional circumstances (e.g. where there has been a Critical Incident) should an employee be suspended for more than four calendar weeks, and this must be discussed with HR;
- In exceptional circumstances, where an employee has to be suspended for more than four calendar weeks, there must be regular communication with the employee regarding progress and the likely timescale for completion of the investigation;
- If the individual subsequently becomes sick, then sick pay will apply;
- Employees who are suspended should be available to attend an interview at short notice if required during normal working hours, subject to the availability of support and taking into account pre-arranged leave;
- Where an employee is suspended, suspension should similarly apply to other posts held within the Board and to out of hours work (e.g. bank or locum) where the risk of clinical, financial or staff governance being compromised also exists;
- There may be occasions where the above risk is so great that it would be appropriate to inform another employer (e.g. alleged patient abuse) where it is known that the employee also works on the bank of another Board; and
- Suspended employees must not work for another employer during their normal working hours.
Email: Darren Paterson
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