Can I be suspended from work by my employer?

by The FindLaw Team

The majority of visitors to FindLaw will probably work in places where the managers and employees will get along with one another, and although the parties may occasionally not see eye to eye, any disagreements will be resolved in a civil manner. However, there may also be instances where an issue between the parties is so serious that a manager may wish to suspend an employee, or alternatively, the employee may want to suspend the contract of employment as a remedy: But are such actions allowed? Sure, children can be suspended from school, but can adults be suspended from work?

Lawful suspension of an employee

First, there is no common law right to suspend an employee without pay for misconduct, even if the behaviour was such, that it would warrant immediate dismissal under other circumstances. However, an action of suspension may potentially be included within a contract, award or via statute.

As previously noted, in circumstances where a contract, award or statute makes an allowance for an employer to suspend an employee during the period of suspension, the employee does not have a duty to work, nor does an employer have a duty to pay any wages. In Reid v Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (1990) 33 IR 463, Pincus J referred to the comments of Lord Sterndale in Hanley v Pease and Partners Limited [1915] 1 KB 698 where is Lordship said:

“[I]f there is a power of suspension which is exercised, the whole contract is suspended, the obligations on both sides are suspended. It seems to me that is the inevitable meaning of suspension… The contract is suspended with regard to its performance by both sides, not only by one…”

Although we should note, that the terms of a contract, award or statute may require that an employer act reasonably during the period of suspension. Additionally, the suspended employee may not be required to fulfil their primary duties; however, some of the rights may still be in force, such as the right of an employer to dismiss an employee or the right of an employee to resign from their role for example.

What remedies are available to an employee who has been unlawfully suspended?

An action of suspension which is not available to an employer either through contract, award or statute, may be considered as a breach of a contract and an employee may have the option to terminate the agreement.

Additionally, an employee who has been unlawfully suspended which is in breach of an applicable award, may seek a remedy through the courts to recover any wages lost during the suspension period, or may also be able to seek damages for breach of contract under certain circumstances.


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