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Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth  EWHC 2019 (QB)
Queen’s Bench Division
15 August 2017
Suspension should not be the ‘default’ reaction to allegations of misconduct; and whatever disciplinary policies or letters may say, suspension is not a ‘neutral act’. An employee should only be suspended if there is a good reason - for example, to protect children or if the presence of the employee at work could interfere with any investigation. If there is no good reason, then suspension could amount to a breach of contract, entitling the employee to resign and complain of constructive dismissal.
A, a Primary School teacher, was suspended because of the force she had used to restrain two children. These two children were known to have severe behavioural difficulties, including breaking things, hitting and grabbing other children and incessant screaming. A had previously asked for help in handling them. In respect of one of the incidents, the Head Teacher had concluded that the forced used by A with the two children was reasonable. The letter informing A that she was suspended stated that suspension was not a disciplinary sanction but was a ‘neutral act’ to allow the investigation to be conducted fairly. No explanation was given about why the investigation could not have been conducted fairly without A being suspended. A resigned on the day she received that letter.
The High Court held that suspension was not a ‘neutral act’, despite what the letter said; there was no good reason for it, since no explanation was given of why her continued presence would prevent a fair investigation; and therefore the suspension breached the implied term not to do anything that would damage mutual trust and confidence, without reasonable cause.