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Suspending Employees During Disciplinary Hearings

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[Thanks to Louise Jones of Temple Garden Chambers for preparing this case summary]

In Crawford v Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, the employer referred a matter of alleged gross misconduct that arose out of the care given to a patient, to the Police. Describing this as "little short of astonishing", Elias LJ noted:

  • Hospitals in this situation, although they must be seen to act transparently, owe duties to long-serving staff;
  • Being under the cloud of possible criminal proceedings is a very heavy burden;
  • Employers should not subject employees to that burden without the most careful consideration and a genuine and reasonable belief that the case, if established, might justify the epithet "criminal" being applied to the conduct.

Elias LJ also doubted whether suspension had been appropriate in this case, and observed that suspension should not be a knee-jerk reaction "if it is, it will be a breach of the duty of trust and confidence. Suspended employees will frequently feel belittled and demoralized".