Suspension can be employer’s prerogative

2019-05-08 06:02
Lucian Companie

Lucian Companie

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


I have a suspicion that one of my branch managers is stealing stock and cooking the books. The numbers just don’t add up.

I want to suspend him to allow a full investigation to be done, but don’t want to give him a heads up so that he can hide evidence.

Can I suspend him immediately without giving him a chance to provide reasons so that I can ensure that he leaves the premises? Please advise.


It is a general principle of our labour laws that dealings between an employer and employee must be fair and reasonable in all aspects.

This includes a decision by an employer on whether or not to impose a suspension.

There are two types of suspensions, and it is important to differentiate between them.

The first type is commonly referred to as a “precautionary suspension”, where an employee is suspended pending the outcome or conclusion of a disciplinary hearing or investigation.

The second type is a sanction imposed by an employer following a disciplinary hearing. In your case, the suspension being considered is the former, namely a precautionary suspension.

Until recently, an employer had to satisfy three requirements for a valid precautionary suspension, namely:

  • the employer must have a justifiable reason to believe that the employee has been engaged in serious misconduct;
  • there must be a justifiable reason for denying the employee access to the workplace based on the integrity of any pending investigation into the alleged misconduct; and
  • the employee must be given an opportunity to state a case before the employer makes a final decision to suspend the employee.

An employee’s entitlement It has long been held that the requirement that an employee be entitled to make representations flows from the principle of natural justice and the importance that both sides should be heard.

This would require the employee to be allowed the opportunity to state reasons why he or she should not be placed on suspension pending the outcome of an investigation or disciplinary hearing.

Case law has in the past also supported this view. It was an established principle that not affording an employee an opportunity to make representations before being suspended rendered the suspension unfair and gave grounds for it being set aside.

This principle was the subject of a recent Constitutional Court decision in Long vs South African Breweries where the Constitutional Court confirmed a Labour Court decision that, where a suspension is precautionary, there is no requirement that an employee be given an opportunity to make representations.

However, the Court also added that it was still necessary that the suspension be linked to a pending investigation and the suspension was proven to be necessary to protect the integrity of the investigation and the employee is fully compensated whilst on suspension.

In your situation, it does sound like there are potentially grounds for a precautionary suspension of the manager without the opportunity to make representations and subject to the pending investigation and on full remuneration. However, it would be prudent to engage the help of a labour specialist to ensure that you undertake the suspension on its meritsand with the necessary advice.

– Lucian Companie, director, Phatshoane Henney Attorneys


Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.