Suspension: Punitive and precautionary

Suspending an employee is a common occurrence in the workplace. Employers must however take care to follow the correct procedures when imposing both precautionary and punitive suspension to avoid putting their business at unnecessary risk.

What is precautionary suspension?

Precautionary suspension is imposed when an employer suspects that an employee might have breached either the business’s disciplinary code, or the terms and conditions of employment.  Due to the nature of the alleged misconduct or breach and lack of proof of guilt, the employer can proceed to suspend the employee on a precautionary basis pending an investigation, especially if there is a possibility that the employee can interfere with the investigation in any way.  Precautionary suspension is with full pay and benefits.  The employee should understand that he/she is not being punished and should not suffer any prejudice in general or in respect of remuneration.

Before suspending an employee on a precautionary basis, the employer should ensure that there are justifiable reasons for removing the employee from the workplace pending an internal investigation.

What is punitive suspension?

Punitive suspension is a form of punishment following a disciplinary hearing where an employee is found guilty of misconduct or a breach of the terms and conditions of employment.  Punitive suspension is a sanction which can be imposed on the employee as an alternative to dismissal and is without pay and benefits. The employer should make it very clear to the suspended employee whether he/she is being suspended on a precautionary or punitive basis to avoid any confusion and possible subsequent Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) referrals.



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