A leading councillor has suggested some suspended staff at Suffolk County Council could work elsewhere within the authority after it was revealed they cost half a million pounds over five years.
Cllr Mark Ereira-Guyer, leader of the Green and Independent Group, questioned whether alternatives could be offered by the council given that 132 staff were suspended on full pay totalling £538,334 between 2008 and 2012.
He said: “There will be some of those cases where they can be used on other duties obviously away from the place where they have been working at that time.
“It’s an issue of reasonableness and trying to come up with options. I think you can get a balance there.”
He also suggested that suspended staff could be given placements in voluntary organisations.
Cllr Ereira Guyer added: “It’s a lot of staff who are being suspended and we’re never going to be able to delve too deeply into the reasons for the suspensions.”
Union bosses say the possibility of suspended staff taking on other roles would depend on individual circumstances.
Ann Glover, eastern regional head of local government for Unison, said: “Each employer has to take a sensible view as to whether it’s appropriate to suspend someone.
“They have to consider the circumstances of each case separately. Bearing that in mind it may or may not be an idea to see if people could be moved to do something differently .
“That would depend on the nature of their role and whether there are any opportunities for them to work in some other area.”
She said the key thing was for employers to ‘do their utmost to investigate any allegation thoroughly, appropriately and as swiftly as possible’.
Ms Glover added: “If someone is suspended it can have a very negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
“Obviously the longer that continues, the worse the situation is. It’s difficult for those people still within the workplace because there is no guarantee someone will be covering that work.”
A council spokesman said: “Suffolk County Council expects the highest level of professionalism and behaviour from staff and any alleged failures to meet these expectations are investigated thoroughly.
“In some cases and to ensure investigations are conducted fairly, it is necessary for a member of staff to be suspended.
“For an organisation of our size, these incidents are rare.”