The devastation of suspension
Lack of understanding about the deadly impact of suspension is a failing I despair about. How will managers ever understand that to be cut off from one’s essential, life enhancing, rewarding work in the most humiliating, unexpected and shocking manner, is a blow that will cause psychological harm, even injury and in many cases, damage the person for life.
I wish I was exaggerating. The insights that follow are used with permission and anonymised to protect the sufferer. Read on and if you have any power to change this system, PLEASE use it.
Impact of Suspension
I was suspended by my line manager, motivated I believe by personal dislike. I was cleared of the false allegations over a protracted four month investigation and disciplinary process, involving two independent investigators. The process ended in me leaving the company, just like I had been told - almost no-one goes back to work after a suspension because the process destroys the necessary 'mutual trust and confidence' between employer and employee.
Now that I have been dismissed, I am free to work. However I am very unwell as a result of the suspension and the events that took place during my suspension. Suspension is not a routine decision, it is a ‘nuclear option.’
I say this because suspension is a form of exclusion, and human beings react badly to exclusion (probably ever since cavemen died, if they were thrown out of a cave). Employees suddenly must spend huge amounts of time, energy and money fighting the ‘machine’ that kicks in after suspension, replacing a productive day at work with an unfairly balanced dispute that acts negatively upon the employees and their families. It becomes very difficult to fight the case when there is limited access to the necessary information, due to the sanctions placed on a suspended employee.
If an employee is being investigated whilst still at work, they will continue to have good days and bad days like we all do. If the employee is suspended before being investigated, they are effectively stuck in a bad day and they can’t move on from that. It becomes difficult to eat or sleep because the employee is stuck at a particularly troublesome point in time, repeating over and over in their brain whatever happened on those last few days at work.
Employees can quickly become deskilled and lose confidence after suspension. In my case, I had a job that was 70% outward facing, and I simply disappeared one day. I was locked in the battleground that is a suspension, fighting to clear my name, and not able to give any explanation to key stakeholders as to why I had disappeared.
I was moved by the section of the NHS Suspension website which examines the effect on those close to the suspended employee - http://www.suspension-nhs.org/nhssuspensionquestionresults.htm - and impressed by the ‘Suggestions for Ways to Change the System’ which resulted from this report.
A Doctor’s Opinion
During my suspension, I spoke to a senior doctor who looked after the well-being of medical staff across two counties. In his experience, suspensions are hugely stressful situations that result in greater coronary strokes and increased risk of suicide amongst other things. However he did not know of any hard data and therefore he stated that he believed that further research was essential.
This person has given a very factual and unemotive account of some of the fallout of suspension that now impacts her daily life and job opportunities. Suspension is a crime against humanity when it is unjust or unnecessary and there need to be ways of preventing it in any organisation, not just the NHS.
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