MEDICAL SUSPENSIONS: There needs to be a valid reason before an employee can get suspended from work on medical reasons.
There are two basic types of workplace medical suspensions. If health and safety is a danger the employer can enforce either:
- A medical suspension: (e.g. a severe allergic reaction to a chemical used at the workplace).
- A suspension for maternity reasons (e.g. a pregnant staff member working in a laboratory that uses radiation).
Before Suspending an Employee
Employers must review the risk assessment of each employee before suspending them. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides further guidance on medical risk assessments.
Many organisations choose to perform a workplace risk assessment themselves. The law does not require you to be a health and safety expert. But, you should be confident that you understand the process of doing a risk assessment. As a rule:
- A ‘hazard’ can be anything that may cause harm to human life. Typical examples include chemicals, electricity, working at sea, or working from ladders.
- The ‘risk’ is the likelihood or chance that somebody could get harmed by any of the hazards. The assessment should also determine how serious or severe the harm could be.
Suspending a Female Employee for Maternity Reasons
Other reasons for medical suspension regulations may apply if an employer wants to suspend staff who either:
- Are already pregnant employees or they could become pregnant.
- Gave birth less than six (6) months ago or women who are breastfeeding.
Employers must follow these specific steps and in order. You should only move on to the next step in the process if the previous situation does not get resolved.
- Carry out all reasonable steps to remove, reduce, or control any risks to the pregnant employee and her baby. That could mean preventing any exposure to any of the risks. In some cases, it may mean providing them with specialist protective equipment.
- Try to find a temporary adjustment to the working conditions for the employee. It could mean rearranging their working hours.
- Offer a suitable alternative working arrangement for the staff member. But, it must be according their usual terms and conditions.
- Suspend the employee on medical grounds and on full pay. The medical suspension must continue while the employee, or her baby, is at risk or in danger.
Employee Pay while Suspended on Medical Grounds
As a rule, suspended employees have the right to receive normal pay during a medical suspension. It can continue for up to 26 weeks and must include any bonuses. But, to qualify the employee must have been in their job for at least one (1) month.
Note: Receiving this pay is not the same as getting Statutory Sick Pay. Thus, thee employee does not need to get ‘signed off’ by a General Practitioner (GP).
Employers should continue the business payroll procedures in the usual way. That means deducting tax and National Insurance contributions. But, in some cases employees will lose their right to pay, such as when they:
- Are working as an independent contractor or an agency worker.
- Refuse to take on other suitable work from their employer (unless there is a valid reason).
- Are unavailable when the employer needs them for the suitable alternative work.
Issues with Suspension on Medical Grounds
Employees can raise a grievance any time an issues fails to get solved using an informal process. If that happens, employers must respond to the grievance according to UK employment laws.
As a rule, that would mean following the written company grievance procedures that apply to medical suspension employment law.