Skip to main content

Legislation Update: ACAS guidance on staff suspensions during investigations

Employer investigation magnifying glass

ACAS has recently published guidance on when and how employers can suspend employees pending investigations at work. It is important to note that suspension should only be considered if the matters being investigated are serious. Suspension should not be treated as a punishment and guilt or liability should not be presumed because of the fact of suspension.

When can an employer suspend staff

An employer should look into the issue objectively in order to gain the relevant facts before considering suspension: this includes finding out what has happened and which employees are involved.

Suspension should only be contemplated if it is needed for any of the following reasons:

  1. The investigation cannot be carried out fairly and effectively unless one or several individuals involved are suspended;
  2. The business could be damaged without it;
  3. Lack of suspension could affect other employees; or
  4. Lack of suspension could affect the person who is being investigated.

Once all of these possible consequences have been reviewed, the employer then has to make a decision as to whether the suspension would be reasonable, or whether there is a better alternative, such as asking the employee to work from home or suggesting they work different hours. Additionally, if more than one person is involved, this does not mean that all of them should be suspended.

The process for suspending staff

Telling the employee

If an employer decides that suspending an employee is the most reasonable course of action, they should clearly set out why the employee is being suspended, that a thorough investigation will be taking place before a decision is made and that during suspension any pay and benefits will continue. It is best practice to do this in person, followed by written notice.

If the employer has a suspension policy, this should be given to the employee. They will need to be told what they can and cannot do during suspension, and should be given the name of someone who can support them, such as a person in the HR department or a manager.


The employer and employee should, between them, agree on what others at work will be told. It is best to keep information pertaining to the suspension confidential in order to avoid any impact on the investigation.

A breach of this confidentiality could lead to a breach of the implied duty to maintain mutual trust and confidence. However, divulging information may at times be necessary, such as informing the investigator or discussing with HR what to tell other employees.

Continued communication

The employer should keep in regular contact with the suspended employee, giving them updates about the investigation and providing support. The employer should ask the employee how they would like to be contacted and how often.

This also applies once the investigation has ended. The employee will need to know the outcome of the investigation and whether they are returning to work. The employer should answer any questions they may have and offer ongoing support for their return? or for the disciplinary procedure, depending on the outcome.

Mental health

The suspension process could have a serious impact on an employee’s mental wellbeing. The employer has a duty to support the suspended person during this time, which involves informing the employee that the suspension does not mean they have done anything wrong, and that their version of events will also be considered. Providing a clear investigation timeline will also remind the employee that the suspension will not be carried on indefinitely.

Employers should let the employee know what support avenues are available, including any individuals at work who are trained in dealing with mental health.

The ACAS guidance sets out that the focus for an employer considering suspension should be the employee, how they are supported and how they are communicated with. It is important that, should the investigation find there is no need for a disciplinary procedure, the employee can return to the workplace without feeling judged or victimised.

Contact the Author(s)

Share this article

Contact the Author(s)