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Two types of suspensions you can use to say 'You're suspended!' legally

by , 15 August 2013
If you're unsure of how to legally suspend your employees, there are two types of suspension you can follow. Read on to find out what they are so you can stay on the right side of the law.

If, like Cosatu you need to suspend an employee, listen up!

According to FSPBusiness, you must have a good reason for wanting to suspend your employee (substantive fairness) and you must follow a fair procedure (procedural fairness) to ensure you're not to be guilty of unfair labour practices.

Say "you're suspended" and make it stick!

You can only do this if you know the two types of suspension you're allowed to use.

Do you know the two types of suspension you can make use of?

Type#1: Preventative or precautionary suspension

Let's say your employee has committed an act of misconduct. And you're afraid that he may interfere with your investigation or tamper with evidence. In this case, you'd use preventative or precautionary suspension against him. This'll be before you hold the disciplinary hearing.

Keep these two things in mind about preventative suspension:

  • The suspension isn't a disciplinary measure;
  • You still have to pay your employee while he's suspended; and
  • There's no maximum period for this type of suspension. It'll depend on the time period you need to conduct the investigation.

Remember, you're not punishing your employee. The purpose of this type of suspension is to prevent further acts of misconduct that your employee could commit if you don't remove him from the workplace.

For example, an employee you suspect of financial irregularities could tamper with evidence if he has access to company information.

Type#2: Punitive suspension

Punitive suspension is when you suspend your employee as a sanction after the disciplinary hearing.

What to remember about punitive suspension:

  • This suspension is a disciplinary measure and may only be imposed after a guilty finding.
  • You don't have to pay your employee for the time he's suspended.
  • You'll have to get your employee to agree to this as an alternative to a more serious penalty such as dismissal. If your employee doesn't agree to punitive dismissal, you can dismiss him.
  • There's no fixed period for which you must suspend your employee. It depends on the nature of the offence committed. But remember your employee can challenge such a suspension if it's for too long. Unless your disciplinary code states a maximum period, more than two months is likely to be unreasonable.

Be cautious when it comes to suspensions. The Labour Court has warned suspension can prejudice your employee and affect his reputation and status, says the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

So look at the facts in each case before you decide to suspend your employee. To do this, use fairness as your yardstick.

Ask yourself: Do I have a valid reason for suspending the employee?

If you're not absolutely sure, don't suspend!

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