Do employers have the right to suspend members of staff from duties pending an inquiry into misconduct?

2017-09-07 Jennifer Renney-Butland posted:

Our employer clients often assume that they are entitled to suspend a member of staff from duties pending an investigation into alleged misconduct provided they pay the employee their normal salary during the suspension period.

That may be acceptable in the case of some employees, when it is regarded as a neutral act, but not so in the case of an employee who is a qualified professional in a function which is regarded as much a vocation as a job.

The senior courts have held that in the case of a professional, suspension changes the status quo from work to no work, which inevitably casts a shadow over the employee's competence.

In the case of Meze v NHS Trust, the employee was a consultant psychiatrist working for the Trust, one of whose patients, a paranoid schizophrenic, killed another man in circumstances which led to a series of internal inquiries into the incidents on the part of the NHS Trust. The Court of Appeal judges accepted that the Trust, by suspending the claimant from most of her duties pending the outcome of the inquiries, was trying to do the best thing for the time being, but in their view the employer had exceeded its legal powers in so doing.

The court therefore ordered the Trust to allow the employee to return to the duties from which she had been suspended. Had the employee resigned instead, she could have raised a claim for breach of contract even if her contract of employment permitted the Trust to suspend.

If you are unclear as to your rights or obligations where suspension from duties is concerned, contact us for further information at 01225 632240 or email info@renneyandco.com with any questions.

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