Q. I own a number of dog grooming salons across several towns and have had to suspend a long standing employee as a passer-by reported that they saw him jumping up and down and shouting at a dog he was supposed to be grooming. I asked my employee to stay away from the premises while I investigate but he has called back in at least once, apparently to collect a pair of scissors that he says belong to him. What should I do now? Am I allowed to withhold his pay if he does it again?
A. Any suspension must be treated with care. Handled wrongly, suspension can amount to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence and can give rise to a claim for constructive dismissal.
Suspension should not be a 'knee-jerk reaction' and you should ensure that suspension can be justified and is appropriate in the circumstances. You should consider whether a transfer to another salon would be appropriate, especially if you could then keep an eye on the employee’s conduct. If you decide to keep him on suspension, it must be for no longer than is necessary to conduct an investigation. You should also write to the employee making it clear that suspension does not amount to disciplinary action. Suspension should always be with pay, even if the employee has apparently breached the terms of the suspension, although you may want to reiterate the importance of obeying your instruction.
You should work to conclude the investigation as promptly as possible before considering whether to take any further action. You should also keep the employee informed of the process and ensure that the matter is kept confidential in order to preserve the employee / employer relationship if you decide that there is no case to answer.