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Q: In what circumstances are we entitled to suspend employees from work, with or without pay?
A: You may suspend someone from work for a reasonable period at any time provided you continue to pay them their normal rate. Commonly, this is done for either of two reasons:
- First, if an incident has occurred resulting in tempers running high and you wish to allow people time to calm down or you feel it better that they do not meet other employees for a while.
Second, if you need to investigate an issue that could lead to disciplinary proceedings and you feel that it would be better to have employees concerned off the site so that they cannot interfere, or be accused of interfering, with the evidence.
Ordinarily, the period of suspension should be no more than a few days. If it were to extend for, say, several weeks the employee might claim that they were not able to practise their skills – which were therefore deteriorating – and that you should either allow them to go back to work or end their contract.
Other reasons for suspension include a pregnant or breastfeeding woman who is in a job that could be hazardous to her and the child and there is no suitable alternative work, and suspension on various health grounds.
You may suspend an employee from work without pay only if the contract clearly allows it. It may say that, if work dries up, the employee will be laid off temporarily without pay. Or your disciplinary procedure may indicate that a brief period of suspension without pay, probably no more than one week, may be imposed as a disciplinary sanction. However, these examples are increasingly rare.
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