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Decision to suspend employee was “overly hasty”

28 August 2020 #Employment

In Stothard v Durham University, the Claimant was suspended following media allegations of alleged grade tampering. She resigned shortly after being reinstated and claimed constructive unfair dismissal, citing the decision to suspend her as one of the breaches of trust and confidence.

The Respondent argued the suspension had been necessary to secure the relevant evidence. However, the Tribunal found the decision to suspend the Claimant had been “overly hasty”; the Claimant’s access to the computer folders could have been restricted, her emails monitored if required, and most of the evidence was contained in computer archives and could not have been accessed by the Claimant in any event.

The Tribunal also noted there was a “very practical alternative” to suspending the Claimant, which was to ask her to explain whether there was any basis for the media’s allegations before considering suspension. The case should therefore remind employers of the need to consider the necessity of a suspension, and whether there are any alternatives, before taking this step.  


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