What is medical suspension?
Medical suspension is a period during which an employee is suspended from work on full pay whilst the employer investigates the employee’s health condition.
When should you place an employee on medical suspension?
There may be occasions during employment when medical suspension of an employee will need to be considered. This includes scenarios where the employee is not in a suitable condition to attend work, but insists that they want to come to work. The employer should carefully review and assess the situation having regard to the health and safety of the employee concerned, and decide whether medical suspension will be necessary.
Before suspending, an employer should consider undertaking a risk assessment to determine the potential impact upon the employee if they continued working in their role, and whether any adjustments would be possible to help them continue. Employers should also consider whether it would be possible for the employee to work in an alternative role.
Where adjustments are not possible, the employer may then consider suspending the employee on medical grounds.
If medical suspension becomes necessary, an employer would be advised to draft a suspension letter which provides information in relation to the suspension, such as the time period, the rights and obligations of the employee during suspension, a point of contact for the employee and their contact details. The purpose of suspension should also be explained to the employee in the letter.
What pay will the employee receive?
The employee is entitled to full pay and benefits during a period of medical suspension for up to 26 weeks, provided that the employee has at least one month’s continuous service at the time on which suspension begins. In the event that the employee is no longer able to work (e.g. because they have been admitted to hospital), or they have unreasonably refused an offer of a suitable alternative role, they will no longer be entitled to receive full medical suspension pay.
How long should suspension last?
Medical suspension should last no longer than is necessary and should be kept under review. The length of suspension required will be dependent upon the circumstances and the condition of the employee.
Should you contact an employee during medical suspension?
Employees should be kept regularly updated about their suspension, the reasons for it and how much longer the suspension is expected to last. Employers should ensure the employee is fully supported during suspension.
It may be the case that a medical opinion needs to be obtained in order to assess the employee’s condition in further detail before any decisions can be made. A medical expert may provide further details such as how long the employee’s condition is likely to last, and whether they are able to return back to work in the same role or whether any adjustments/alternative roles need to be considered. This information can then be used to decide when it would be the most appropriate time for an employee to return back to work (if at all), and assess whether the employees condition may amount to a disability.
Once the employee is fit enough to return back to work, the employer should take steps to end suspension immediately. It is advised that a return-to-work meeting should be arranged on the employee’s first day back in order to discuss any concerns which the employee may have.