ACAS have updated their guidance on the practice of suspending an employee during investigations at work.
In their updated guidance, ACAS have honed in on the importance of mental wellbeing and the employer’s duties in respect of safeguarding an employee’s mental health during periods of suspension from work.
Suspension can be necessary where, for instance, the employee may pose a threat to colleagues or where the employee’s presence in the workplace is likely to prevent a fair investigation from being carried out because he or she is likely to destroy evidence or influence witnesses.
Having said this, the decision to suspend should not be taken lightly as it can have significant consequences on factors such as the employee’s reputation and their mental health.
The new ACAS guidance sets out a number of steps the employer can take to help prevent mental health issues arising or getting worse during the employee’s suspension. These include:
- Keeping in regular contact throughout the suspension
- Making sure the employee knows who they can contact if they have any concerns
- Making clear the suspension does not mean it has been decided they’ve done something wrong
- Making sure the suspension only lasts for as long as it needs to
Employers have a legal ‘duty of care’ to support workers during any period of suspension and look out for their wellbeing. Given they will not be at work, it may not be immediately obvious to the employer if their mental health is affected, particularly where the employee does not communicate this.
By following the steps above, the employer is more likely able to establish if someone needs mental health support. Where the worker does need mental health support, the ACAS guidance recommends that employers and managers should let the suspended person know what support is available and encourage them to use it. The guidance also recommends that employers and managers should be trained on how to support staff.
You can click here to view the updated guidance on suspensions. If you have any further questions as to how the guidance may apply to your organisation, please do not hesitate to contact our team.