Fine-tune the Suspension: Lessons from TopGear

As fans of the TV show Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson (and just about anybody living in the UK) may have noticed, in recent weeks, the BBC faced one of the most vexing questions confronted by employers in alleged misconduct scenarios - to suspend or not?


Always a tricky one, but when the employee is a high profile public figure with an army of devoted fans and the driving force behind a product generating revenues of tens of millions of pounds, the stakes (not steaks – please, no mention of steaks) become even higher.

So petrol heads the UK over have found themselves mulling over a suspension that involves not axles, spring rates or jacking forces, but the (far more exhilarating) intricacies of UK employment law.

For most employers, hopefully, the decision whether or not to suspend will not spark a Twitter furore, online petition, or the unsavoury trolling of the alleged victim. However, of course, it remains vital to get the decision right as it may well come under intense scrutiny.

So we thought it timely to outline five key points to bear in mind:

  1. Is suspension appropriate and/or necessary? It should not be a “knee jerk” reaction and real thought should be given as to why it is necessary.

  2. Do you have the contractual right to suspend? If not, it is advisable to take advice as you run the risk of breaching the employment contract.

  3. What terms will apply during suspension? Generally, the employee should continue to benefit from their salary and other benefits of their employment and remain available during work hours.

  4. Confirm in writing and keep duration to a minimum. It is important to document the terms of the suspension and let the employee know exactly where they stand.

  5. Highlight that it is an entirely neutral act without any presumption of guilt.

So whilst, alas, the future of the ever-popular Top Gear remains uncertain, one thing is for sure: taking proper care of suspension issues is key to keeping misconduct proceedings firmly on the right road.