Monday, 8 April 2013

The Devastation of Suspension - Never a Neutral Act

One of the things that distresses me beyond words is the way innocent staff are accused of things they haven’t done and told that it’s ok, that suspension is a neutral act.

How can it be neutral when it sends someone into a state of shock. If it were neutral, the suspended person would not feel threatened.

Isolated, ill, humiliated, and one’s work rubbished as the person has been torn away from it, instantly.

Lord Justice Elias, at the Court of Appeal, made these observations about suspension.  ( See
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2012/138.html)

This case raises a matter which causes me some concern. It appears to be the almost automatic response of many employers to allegations of this kind to suspend the employees concerned, and to forbid them from contacting anyone, as soon as a complaint is made, and quite irrespective of the likelihood of the complaint being established. As Lady Justice Hale, as she was, pointed out in Gogay v Herfordshire County Council [2000] IRLR 703, even where there is evidence supporting an investigation, that does not mean that suspension is automatically justified. 
It should not be a knee jerk reaction, and it will be a breach of the duty of trust and confidence towards the employee if it is. 
I appreciate that suspension is often said to be in the employee's best interests; but many employees would question that, and in my view they would often be right to do so. They will frequently feel belittled and demoralised by the total exclusion from work and the enforced removal from their work colleagues, many of whom will be friends. This can be psychologically very damaging. 
Even if they are subsequently cleared of the charges, the suspicions are likely to linger, not least I suspect because the suspension appears to add credence to them. 
It would be an interesting piece of social research to discover to what extent those conducting disciplinary hearings subconsciously start from the assumption that the employee suspended in this way is guilty and look for evidence to confirm it. 
It was partly to correct that danger that the courts have imposed an obligation on the employers to ensure that they focus as much on evidence which exculpates the employee as on that which inculpates him.

How true all this is, though couched in cautious language!

I suspect that the manager who has made the decision to suspend the staff member will now try to justify their draconian action to their colleagues so are bent on finding anything and everything to add credence to their action. It is not subconscious in my view, but deliberate, the words ‘witch hunt’ coming to mind. 

What injustice and what a mess and no one knows this is going on except the poor people experiencing it and an employment tribunal, if it gets that far.
Julie

2 comments:

  1. I'm currently suspended and devastated after having endured a witch hunt last year which left me demoted, removed to an alien work environment and with a final written warning - I'm already suffering from ptsd and now it appears to be happening again. I'm a good nurse,passionate about my work and will not keep quiet about poor practice but I find myself at risk of losing my livelihood, isolated, humiliated and sick with fear.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am currently suspended from work due to a witchunt by managers who wish to conceal their own errors and look for a scapegoat. I have worked for the NHS for 34 years with not one complaint being made against me, and a complaint has yet to be made against me. The trust also reported me to the NMC who suspended me before seeing the full evidence and me being off sick with severe anxiety and depression. This has led to me being downgraded by the trust and my wages cut by 650pounds a year. This has led to severe financial hardship for myself and my family. A year down the line there is still no end to this nightmare as the trust try to find a way out of this situation. Suspension places extreme stress and anxiety on nurses who find it to fight back. I have devoted my life to the NHS and have been a good practitioner, however I am now deeply disillusioned and can not wait to retire. The NHS has destroyed my life and I continue to take antidepressants and I have now developed ulcerative colitis. The NHS has no compassion for its staff and cares little about them.

    ReplyDelete