Most employers argue that suspending an employee is a ‘neutral’ act and does not imply any guilt. The general principles regarding suspension are a presumption of innocence and that no decision regarding disciplinary action has been made until there has been an investigation and/or it has been decided there is a case to answer.
However, the impact of a suspension on teachers and other professionals in a vocation can be catastrophic as with these individuals, guilt is often presumed no longer rendering it a neutral act.
More than just a suspension…
When allegations are made against a teacher and they are suspended as a result, their life and career are automatically affected. Furthermore the number of false allegations made against teachers is on the rise and having suspension as the default position only adds to the immediate presumption of guilt. Even if the suspension is dropped and wiped from the record, the teacher (or professional in another vocation) will always have the suspension hanging over his/her head with colleagues, parents and students continuing to discuss it or failing to forget it.
Suspending an employee with careful consideration
In a recent case it was found that a teacher’s suspension was not a neutral act; that it amounted to a fundamental breakdown of trust and confidence and she was entitled to resign and claim constructive dismissal in response to it. This is a significant consequence of a hasty decision.
So what should you do to avoid a similar situation?
- Don’t have a default position to suspend
- Consider each situation on a case by case basis
- Think carefully about the reason given for the suspension. There are some good reasons to suspend, for example, safe guarding issues, evidence of immorality
- If suspension is necessary, carefully articulate the reasons for this
- Manage the suspension and confidentiality attached to it well, limiting as much as possible an impact on the individual and a presumption of guilt
- If no further action is taken following the suspension, communicate this well with colleagues, parents and students, again to mitigate any damage to the individual’s reputation and career
We very much encourage our clients to develop procedures that are relevant to their organisation and allow some flexibility and fluidity to allow them to be adapted on a case by case basis.
We would strongly advise against a blanket suspension policy (or even a blanket disciplinary procedure) and for decisions to be made and procedures to be followed that are proportionate and appropriate to the particular situation. This is not to say that suspension will never be necessary, but that care should be taken to consider the facts of the case rather than falling on a default position.
This post written by Joanna Smye of the Price Bailey Legal Services team. If you would like any further help or information such as how we have helped other Schools or Academies, you can contact Joanna using the form below.
We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.