Under the Public Service Act 2008 employees can be suspended from the workplace in certain circumstances:
- the proper and efficient management of a department could be adversely affected if a public service officer stayed in the workplace (Section 137)
- a public service employee is liable for discipline (Section 189).
The Chief Executive or delegated officer must examine alternative options prior to making the decision to suspend an employee.
Before a suspension happens, the decision makers must consider whether an employee can be assigned alternative duties at their home or at an alternative work location.
Employee suspensions should be used carefully, as they can:
- result in significant costs to agencies
- affect an agency’s capacity to deliver services on-time and on-budget.
Planning is important throughout the process so that you have strategies in place to manage the situation, and a clear plan of how you‘re going to bring the matter to its conclusion.
Record keeping is essential to documenting why a certain decision was made. Creating and maintaining a clear document trail detailing your decision making process will help to explain your decision and assist future decision making across the agency.
1 Issue identified
The conduct or performance issue is identified, and initial information gathered.
2 Decision point
Will the employee:
- remain in role
- be assigned to alternative duties
- be suspended.
See Clause l.11.8 of the Discipline Guideline. When making this decision, you should consider:
- who is the appropriate decision maker for this matter?
- is the information gathered reliable, relevant, and sufficient to make an informed decision on the appropriate course of action to be taken?
- if suspended – is this paid or unpaid?
3 Review decision
Reviewing the decision regularly is important to ensure the decision taken is still appropriate. Consider if there is new information that may affect or change the previous decisions.
4 Final outcome
The final outcome will be either:
- employee returns to normal duties
- management or discipline action is taken
- employee separates by resignation or termination.
Suspension without pay
Suspensions without pay should only be used when it is reasonably believed that:
- the employee is liable for disciplinary action
- the employee is unable to be placed on suitable alternative duties as per Clause 11.8 b of the Discipline Guideline
- there is a risk to customer or worker health and safety, financial risk, or the public interest if the employee remains in the workplace.
The Public Service Act 2008 does not prescribe the conditions which may lead a decision maker to suspend an employee without pay.
Relevant factors may include:
- How serious is the alleged issue? Is this a single occasion or is there a pattern of behaviour?
- If the allegations are proven, what discipline action is reasonably open? Is the employment relationship likely to continue in its current form?
- If suspended without pay, what impact will this have on the employee’s welfare or financial situation?
- How long will it take to make a decision on the matter? What factors are influencing the timeframe?
- Are there concurrent processes occurring? Has the employee been convicted of a crime or remanded in custody?
- The public interest, including in the use of public funds.
- Can paid leave be used instead of suspension without pay?
The principles of “natural justice” must be observed where it is proposed to suspend an employee without pay.