What are the legal consequences of suspending an employee? In particular, in what circumstances will an employer breach the implied term of trust and confidence?
The issue has been considered by the Court of Appeal in the case of London Borough of Lambeth v Agoreyo. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Court has confirmed that an employer will be acting lawfully when it has reasonable and proper cause for suspending the employee.
A primary school suspended a teacher after two teaching assistants had accused her of using excessive force against two pupils with special educational needs. Ms Agoreyo claimed it was a ‘kneejerk’ suspension that breached trust and confidence. She resigned and brought a tribunal claim.
The claim was initially dismissed, but on appeal, the High Court held that it had not been necessary to suspend Ms Agoreyo, and therefore the suspension was a breach of trust and confidence. The Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s decision. It said that the correct legal test was whether the school had reasonable and proper cause to suspend, and the original judge was entitled to hold that it did. The High Court fell into error as it seemed to have adopted a test of whether it was necessary to suspend and that placed too high a burden on the school.
Accordingly, Ms Agoreyo’s claim that her suspension was a breach of contract failed. Tips for employers: