Suspension of Employees
Tuesday 19th March 2019
The case of London Borough of Lambeth v Agoreyo, heard in the Court of Appeal, considers in what circumstances the suspension of an employee can breach the implied duty of trust and confidence between an employee and employer.
Suspension should only be used by employers as a protective measure to allow the investigations of allegations of serious misconduct against an employee and where the employee’s continued attendance may hinder the investigation or present a serious risk to other staff, customers or the interests of business.
An implied duty of trust and confidence exists between each employee and employer. This means that any suspension, even when suspension rights are provided for in a contract of employment, must not be enforced or continued for longer than is necessary.
Mrs Agoreyo was an experienced primary school teacher. She was accused of using excessive force when reacting to the challenging behaviour of two children with special education needs in her class. She was suspended on receipt of the accusations. She then resigned following her suspension claiming such action was kneejerk and that the implied term of trust and confidence between her and the local authority which employed her had been breached.
Decision and comment
On first hearing in the County Court it was held that the school had proper grounds for suspending her and the claim was rejected. On appeal to the High Court it was held that her suspension had not been required and that in doing so the implied duty of trust and confidence had been breached.
The Court of Appeal however rejected the High Court’s findings and held that the head teacher making the decision did not have to establish that it was required to suspend Mrs Agoreyo, only that that there was a case that suspension was reasonable and for a proper cause. Mrs Agoreyo’s claim that her suspension resulted in a breach of implied trust and confidence failed.
This case reinforces that whilst suspension is not be to be used as a matter of course or as a disciplinary action, employers can suspended employees so long as such action is reasonable and for a proper cause.