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Can suspending an employee amount to a breach of contract?

While it is always advisable for employers to have the right to suspend an employee in their contract of contract of employment, they must also be satisfied that they have reasonable grounds to do so, to avoid breaching the implied term of trust and confidence. This may cover situations such as having a real concern that the employee will interfere with the investigation or that they will do damage business interests (for example interfering with computer systems, making derogatory comments to clients or tampering with confidential information).

The Court of Appeal will decide on an important case this week as to when, if at all, suspending an employee can amount to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence.

The case involves a teacher whose suspension was held to unjustified, entitling her to resign and claim constructive dismissal for breach of the implied term. The school had failed to consider whether there were any alternatives to suspension and failed to obtain a response from the employee about the allegations before making the decision to suspend. The purpose of the suspension was purportedly to ensure that a fair investigation could take place, but the school did not explain why that would not be possible if the employee remained at work.

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