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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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Today I have been suspended from work for allegations of misconduct

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Today I have been suspended from work for allegations of misconduct concerning members of staff. I have worked in a variety of different firms over 21 years and have never been accused of anything. The company I have been working for the last year has a very challenging environment. I don't know what to do and am worried that this is gong to mean to the of my career that I have worked hard for.
Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. So to confirm you have only been employed by this company for a year?

Customer: just over a year, since 19 June 2013, forgot to mention that the allegations are of bullying. Never been accused of anything like this before. Shellshocked.
Ben Jones :

Being placed on suspension is not an automatic assumption of guilt and does not amount to disciplinary action. It is there to be used as a precautionary measure whilst an employer investigates any allegations against the employee. Reasons for suspending could be in the case of gross misconduct, breakdown of relationship, risk to an employer's property, their clients or other employees, to preserve evidence or ensure it is not tampered with, avoid potential witnesses being pressured or intimidated, etc.

Any period of suspension should be as short as possible and reviewed on a regular basis. A knee-jerk decision to suspend, without considering whether this is actually necessary, or if it could be avoided, could result in the employer acting in breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. This could prompt the employee to complain to the employer, such as by raising a grievance.

During the period of suspension the employer should conduct a reasonable investigation into the allegations against the employee. If the investigation gathers enough evidence to justify the taking disciplinary action that could be the next step. In that case the employee has the right to be informed in advance of the allegations against them and be given the opportunity to prepare for the hearing.

On the other hand, if the investigation does not find enough evidence to justify a disciplinary, the employer should terminate the suspension immediately and allow the employee to return to work as normal.

Whilst you are not protected against unfair dismissal because you do not have 2 years’ service, the employer would still owe you a duty of care if they were to provide any references in the future, so they would need to ensure that what they say reflects the truth and they are not just commenting on a rumour or on something which was not proven and you had no chance to defend. So they could still dismiss you but they need to be careful with what happens next and how your future employment opportunities are affected by what they potentially say.

Customer: If I have already recorded with HR that I have felt bullied at work, stressed due to the and workload, and my health has been suffering, with absences because of this, how does the effect things?
Ben Jones :

it will not affect matters much - you will still not be protected against dismissal or any action being taken against you. Again the only issue is what they say in any potential reference

Customer: What about if the company is regulated, you are a regulated person and the firm has already been advised they are under resourced? i feel like I am going to be dismissed and have no rights. What can I do if they give me poor references?
Ben Jones :

the regulation issue has no impact on your rights in this particular situation. If they give a poor reference then you would need to consider against what has happened and whether it is untrue or directly misleading. In that event it could amount to a breach of duty of care and negligence, something which you can pursue them for if you suffer losses as a result of

Customer: So it is unlikely that they will do this? Do most firms just compromise or whatever it is called now? I doubt the will want me to go to the regulator? co
Customer: Could I take any action?
Ben Jones :

if you have a valid complaint from a regulatory point of view you are free to deal with this separately - I cannot comment on whether you have a valid claim for that or not as that is a separate issue and will depend on what regulatory obligations they had. But you cannot use it as 'blackmail' to try and avoid being treated in a specific way by them - the two issues are separate. Whilst the employer could try and settle with you, they do not have to and this only happens if you have a potential claim against them, but in this case as you cannot challenge any dismissal, which would be the most likely claim, then your bargaining position is not that strong. They could simply agree to give you a neutral or positive reference and let you go on that basis

Customer: I am not trying to blackmail, I feel i have work in a very difficult and stressful environment for over a year and now this totally out of the blue. It sounds like i have no rights and my 21 year career is in tatters.
Ben Jones :

well no, not necessarily, they could dismiss you over this but not do anything that would jeopardise your future - as mentioned, it is still early days and these allegations could end up going no further. At the same time you are free to negotiate with them over an agreed exit where you are allowed to move on and they will not stand in your way or your future intentions

Customer: Can an agreed exit include notice period payment? To be honest even if no evidence i don't want to go back after this experience.
Customer: I suppose it is irrelevant that I have worked 95% of my lunch-breaks due to unreasonable work load.
Ben Jones :

yes it can include notice payment, even if you do not work it - that is for you and the employer to agree on. Sadly it is irrelevant that you have worked over your breaks

Customer: one last question. Surely it is relevant that stress/ill health could have affected your normal personality. I not think I have been a bully, its a very challenging working environment and I think I am being used as a scape goat so want to at least try to escape on good terms.
Ben Jones :

it is relevant but to an extent where you legal rights in this situation would change - the employer could still dismiss you even if that is what led to your behaviour. You cannot claim directly against them for stress unless you have suffered personal injury as a result, such as a serious and recognised psychological condition and this really has to be serious. But you have nothing to lose by trying to leave on good terms and even proposing that you leave with some sort of agreement - they may easily be open to it

Customer: Thanks for he advice, feels like i am stuffed. Bye
Ben Jones :

you are welcome, all the best

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