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Law guide

Suspension from work on health and safety grounds

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In certain circumstances, your employer may need to suspend you from work for health and safety reasons. This article outlines your rights if that happens, looks at how you'll be paid and what happens if you're pregnant.

Suspension from work on medical grounds

Your employer has a duty to take all reasonable steps to ensure your health and safety. This means they can suspend you from work if they think you may be at particular risk. For example, you may be suspended if you become seriously allergic to a chemical at work, or if you're a newly expectant mother working in a lab that uses radiation. Your employer's decision should be based on a risk assessment.

You won't have the right to paid suspension on medical grounds if, for example:

  • You're not an employee. (For more information, see our 'Employees, workers and the self-employed' article.)
  • You unreasonably refuse other suitable work offered by your employer
  • You don't meet any reasonable requirements your employer may have to make sure you're available for other/alternative work when required
Pay

If you've been in your job for a month or more when you're suspended, you have the right to be paid for up to 26 weeks of suspension. The pay should be equal to a normal week's pay. However, if you're offered other suitable work, you must take it – otherwise you lose your right to be paid.

There may be rules for medical suspension in your contract of employment. If they say you're to be paid while suspended, you should make sure the actual amount isn't less than a normal week's pay. If it is, your employer must make up the difference.

If you don't want to return to work while suspended, refusing other suitable work ends your right to pay. This includes work that may not be included in your contract of employment.

If you're pregnant

Your employer must make a special assessment of the risks to pregnant mothers and their babies. If there are risks, your employer must protect you and your baby by:

  • Adjusting your working conditions and/or hours of work
  • Offering you other suitable work if there is any
  • Suspending you from work for as long as necessary
If you're suspended, you're entitled to full pay, including any bonuses you would have been paid. Your suspension should last until the risk to you or your baby has been removed.

There can be extra risks to the health of pregnant night workers. If you have a medical certificate saying that there's a risk, you should be offered suitable day work. If none is available, you can be suspended until the risk to health has passed. If you refuse reasonable alternative work, your employer doesn't have to pay you.

For more information, see our 'Pregnancy and health and safety' section.

What to do next

If your own health is involved, talk to your GP.

If you disagree with your employer, you should use the grievance procedure set out in your contract. If there is nothing set out in your contract, see our 'Grievance procedures' section.

Check you're getting the right amount of pay. Your contract or statement of employment will say whether your employer can pay you differently during suspension.

You may wish to contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) for advice if you're still unhappy (see contact details below). As a last resort, you can complain to an employment tribunal (or industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland).

Where to get help

If you have any concerns about your health and safety, you can:

  • In England, Wales and Scotland, ring the HSE's Infoline on 0845 345 0055 8.00 am to 6.00 pm, Monday to Friday or email hse.infoline@connaught.plc.uk
  • In Northern Ireland, ring the HSENI's Infoline on 0800 0320 121 (open 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday) or email hseni@detini.gov.uk