Under French labour law, there are limited circumstances under which employers may suspend employees.
One of the main obligations imposed on employers is to provide employees with work to be performed (and obviously to pay them in consideration for their work). Breach of this requirement may be considered as a ground for breach of contract, and the relevant employee can claim the equivalent of constructive dismissal which in practice has the same consequences as an unfair dismissal).
In practice, there are two types of suspensions provided by the French labour code:
1. Disciplinary suspension (“mise à pied disciplinaire”)
This measure consists of diverting the employee from the company, for a temporary period of time (usually a few days), as a disciplinary sanction for an employee’s misconduct. Such disciplinary sanction must be justified by the existence of sufficiently important misconduct by the employee.
During the period of suspension, the employee’s employment agreement is suspended, and the employee is not entitled to any remuneration.
At the end of the suspension period, the employee may normally resumes his duties.
The ability for the employer to discipline an employee through a temporary suspension must be provided in the company’s internal regulations (“règlement intérieur”) which must in particular set out the maximum duration thereof. In the absence of such a provision, the employee may claim the cancellation of the suspension. In addition, the employer must comply with French law requirements relating to disciplinary procedures in particular, the notification of the sanction must be made in writing, the letter setting out the reasons for the sanction taken).
2. Suspension in the context of an investigation (“mise à pied conservatoire”)
This measure is not a disciplinary sanction per se. It is a protective measure implemented pending the results of an investigation (which may itself lead to a disciplinary sanction being taken against the employee, most often a dismissal).
Such measure enables the employer to temporarily divert from the company an employee suspected of certain kinds of misconduct for the period of time necessary to determine whether such employee can actually be incriminated and the appropriate sanction for his/her acts.
Such suspension must be notified in writing to the employee concerned, and case law has held that the employer must immediately initiate a disciplinary procedure against the employee.
During the period of suspension in the context of an investigation, the employee must be remunerated contrary to the disciplinary suspension). However, if the investigation leads to a dismissal measure against the employee based on serious or wilful misconduct, the employee’s remuneration is not due for the period of suspension.