Is ‘work at home’, the same as being suspended?


It is becoming more common for staff to be asked (or instructed) to work at home in circumstances surrounding an investigation.

Suspension from work is where an employee continues to be employed under their contract of employment, but is instructed not to attend the workplace or undertake any work. This is typically whilst a disciplinary matter is investigated. 

When considering suspending an employee, the employer has a duty to consider other options first, other than suspension.

See our full article on suspension.

What are the employer’s options?

Employers must consider temporary alternatives to suspension. Theses include but are not limited to:

  • Making changes to working patterns;
  • Working in a separate function or department within the school or Trust;
  • Working from a separate workplace or location or work at home;
  • Preventing the worker from doing a portion of their job;
  • Removing the employee’s access to or use of a certain systems.

For this article we will examine the implications of the third option here, being asked to work at home as an alternative to the suspension.

Suspension or work at home

By the very nature of the word ‘suspension’, it can have an impact on the employee. However, you will almost certainly be told it is not a sanction but ‘a neutral act’ to protect the situation, for example, from escalation. Understandably, it is common for people to say that it doesn’t feel like a neutral act.

An increasingly common alternative is to ask staff to ‘work at home’. As this is now an accepted phrase in the work sector, it can feel less impactful. Equally, it can be designed to achieve the same level of protection from escalation. 

In either situation, work from home or suspension, it is important to understand the reasoning for this. The reasons will most likely be such as: to avoid interference with an investigation (or to remove any suggestion staff have interfered); to prevent a situation escalating and creating further allegations;  or simply to protect the employee from any ongoing events surrounding the allegation.

All are intended to be neutral acts and not a sanction themselves.

What can be expected of me?

– If you are suspended you are expected to comply with the investigation and to be told specifically you are being suspended. Best practice (and school policy may state this) is to write to the employee with a reason for the suspension and their employment rights, such as pay. 

At this stage the reason cited may be a little vague if a disciplinary investigation is underway where an investigation interview later will give you a chance to fully understand the concerns. Keeping in touch with the employee should be through a named person. It is highly likely you will have access to school systems withdrawn. 

– If you are asked to work at home, in essence much of the above applies. However, it generally feels less impactful because ‘suspension’ is not being mentioned. As the name suggests you continue to work, just at a different location. The feelings of isolation tend to be less because restrictions on communication with others may not be imposed in the same way at suspension.

This is much more akin to the school asking you to work in a different building or premises. The impact on mental health and wellbeing is better served in this manner, but is not always an option.


Whether you have been suspended or asked to work at home, there will be things to consider.

The reasons behind the decision will be different in every case. However, these circumstances may direct the employer to place certain restrictions on you. For example, it may simply be that you have to ask for permission to be on site or it may restrict communication with staff and pupils. Whatever they are, these will be designed to protect the situation. It is very likely that you will be reminded that the process around an investigation is confidential and any breaches may be deemed contravention of the disciplinary policy. It is important to remember this.


The circumstances will direct where investigations lead. In some cases the investigation outcome will recommend there is ‘a case to answer’ and this will lead to a disciplinary hearing. During this time any formal suspension imposed will almost certainly remain in place. Some school policies direct that a formal suspension meeting happens at the start. Some direct that only the governing body can lift a suspension.

However, after an initial look at the situation and where staff have been asked to work from home, a solution can sometimes be found quickly to get staff back to school. In this case the decision to work at home has served to try to lessen the impact on the employee whilst protecting the situation.

Staff won’t be able to influence the decision on suspension or any alternative. However, reminding employers of the responsibility to consider options can be done by Edapt caseworkers.

Further reading on suspension and options from ACAS

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.