'Love thy labour' is a weekly column published in the Cape Argus, written by labour law expert Michael Bagraim. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA
We have been seeing many employees of various government parastatals who have been accused of wrongdoing and who have been placed on suspension from their work while the investigations continue.

This is common practice in the private sector for many reasons.

Suspension should always be done on full pay and can only be done after the employee has been consulted before the suspension.

The employers often have suspension clauses in their terms and conditions of employment, and in particular in the disciplinary codes at work.

There is also a concept known as “precautionary suspension”, when an employee is approached by someone from human resources or management and is told that they want to place that employee on a precautionary suspension, for either 24 hours or 48 hours, while that employee will be able to consider and make representations to management as to why he or she should not be suspended.

The outline of the allegations against the employee should be given to the employee orally or in writing. The employee is then given time to give feedback.

Suspension should not be used as a punishment, as normally the alleged wrongdoing, at this stage, is not proved or substantiated.

Suspension cannot be used in all circumstances and should only be invoked if there is a danger of that person tampering with evidence or witnesses, or causing some damage to the employer.

For instance, if the employer feels that the fact that the employee remains at work means their reputation might be marred publicly, then it would be sustainable to suspend that individual on full pay, pending the outcome of the disciplinary inquiry.

Should the investigation reveal no veracity to the allegations, then it is incumbent upon the employer to approach the employee and to explain that the investigation has taken place, and that the employee is now requested to come back to work with no negative remarks on that employee's file or record.

It is often difficult for employers to handle the message to the rest of their staff, to their customers and to the public as to why a certain employee has been suspended.

It is recommended that both the employers and the suspended employees work together as to how the message should be structured.

While the employee is on suspension, it would be best to avoid social media and gossip.

Employees are obviously entitled to request management to give them access to information, evidence, documents etc, in order to prepare for the disciplinary inquiry even if they are on suspension.

* Michael Bagraim is a labour lawyer.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media

Cape Argus