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HR 101 – Suspending an Employee

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Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements.

First of all, let’s be really clear about this . . . . suspending an employee, irrespective of whether it is with pay or not is a really serious thing to do. It is not something that should be done lightly or at the very least, done without taking all of the consequences into account. One of the questions that you should ask yourself before suspending an employee is “Did the employee do something that can be considered as “serious” misconduct?

If the answer to that question is no – don’t suspend. If however the answer is a resounding “YES”, then here are a few more issues for you to think about, carefully – before you continue.

– Are you going to suspend the employee immediately, or wait a few days and what are the consequences to either one of these actions.
– Are you required to hold a ‘pre-suspension’ hearing and if so how do you go about it – what are the requirements?
– Would there be (and what would they be) any consequences if you did not hold a ‘pre-suspension’ hearing?

Firstly – employees should not be suspended unless you are reasonably concerned that they would interfere with your internal investigation. In other words if you thought that they may destroy documents or say delete e-mails etc., that would really strengthen your case. If you were concerned about them intimidating colleagues, who you may want to use as witnesses or if they may, in any way do damage to your reputation or jeopardise your income in any way, then you have grounds to suspend.

If you are at all concerned about any of these and I mean justifiably concerned, then by all means suspend.

Remember though, that a ‘pre-suspension’ hearing should take place ‘before’ suspending the employee as failure to do this could result in the CCMA awarding a financial penalty (which always goes into the employees pocket to add insult to your injury) as procedures were not correctly followed.

The length of time that the employee is suspended should also be taken into consideration. Keeping an employee suspended for too long, even if they are suspended on full pay, could also result in a financial penalty being levied against the employer.

Bottom line – don’t just have a knee jerk reaction. Think about what it is that you are doing and why, because the CCMA and the Labour Courts are very strict about unfair suspension.