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With the huge expansion in employees working remotely in
recent years, new disciplinary issues have emerged. How can an
employer in Lithuania ensure the suspension of a remote working
employee is valid and legal?
Recent amendments to the Lithuanian Labour Code
(LC) have considerably broadened the range
of employees whose requests for
teleworking must be granted. As teleworking becomes a
daily routine for employers and
employees, inevitably, new issues arise. A highly
topical issue is the recording
of disciplinary violations and the suspension of
employees. Suspension is relatively straightforward when the
employee is working in the office, but when working
remotely, it presents a number of challenges.
Suspending an employee
What does suspension mean? Suspension is the temporary
suspension of an employment contract, when an employee is prevented
from performing his or her agreed job functions.
An employee is normally suspended for the following reasons:
- at the written request of officials or official bodies;
- while investigating the circumstances of possible
- when an employee shows up for work under the influence of
alcohol or narcotic, psychotropic or toxic substances.
The last ground is probably the most difficult to apply.
How can you assess an employee’s condition remotely?
The fundamental problem with the last ground for suspension is
determining whether an employee is intoxicated. The usual signs of
drunkenness, such as inappropriate behaviour and slurred speech,
are particularly difficult to spot when working remotely. And the
identification of some signs, for example, the odour of alcohol on
an employee’s breath, is impossible.
To suspend the employee on this ground, the employer or other
staff members must clearly observe uncoordinated or inappropriate
behaviour or other signs indicating that the person is intoxicated.
Only then can the employer take other steps to determine whether
the employee is actually under the influence.
It is therefore recommended that employers set up an internal
procedure for organising a drunkenness check for remote working
Employers can stipulate that in the event of a suspicion of
drunkenness, the employer has the right to arrive at the
employee’s designated teleworking location for a check, or
that the employee must present himself/herself at the workplace or
a healthcare institution for a check.
Disciplinary issues with ‘workcations’
‘Workcation’ is the same as teleworking, but with
scope to travel and usually with a more flexible working schedule.
Of course, while workcation is a motivational and
efficiency-enhancing tool, it can also create additional problems
for employers. During vacations, employees relax more, so cases of
drunkenness or other intoxication may also occur.
When granting workcation, it is important to determine when the
employee must be available, where s/he should be checked if
suspected of being intoxicated, as well as how the employee can be
suspended if s/he is working in another country.
How to suspend a teleworker?
At the written request of officials or official bodies, an
employee can be suspended from work in writing for a period of up
to three months, without pay. The employer must specify the period,
reasons and the legal basis for the suspension.
On the other hand, suspension of an employee when there are
concerns about his or her misconduct can only be done when
misconduct is suspected and if it is established that the
employee’s presence at the workplace is likely to interfere
with the investigation. If the employee in question is working
remotely, being ‘in the workplace’ could be interpreted
as continuing to carry out job functions or being connected to a
The employer’s notification of its decision to suspend an
employee from work must specify the alleged breach of his or her
duties and the reasoned justification for the allegation. The
employee is suspended for a period of up to 30 calendar days, with
his or her average salary retained. It is recommended that this
decision be communicated to the employee in writing and that a
written explanation be requested.
If an employee is found to be intoxicated, the process remains
the same as when working in the office: the employee is issued with
a suspension notice, which is presented to him or her. The employee
must sign it to agree or disagree to the suspension.
It is also recommended that the employee be instructed to
provide a written explanation of the circumstances surrounding his
or her drunkenness or other intoxication. The employee is suspended
immediately on that working day, without pay.
However, in cases where the employee works remotely, it is
important to know the specific aspects which, if not taken into
account, can considerably complicate a relatively simple suspension
- As a first step, we recommend establishing an internal
procedure that clearly sets out how irregularities in teleworking
are recorded and what the specific procedure for suspension is.
This is important for the employer, as without proper definition of
these aspects it may be difficult to suspend the employee or, in
the event of drunkenness, to carry out the necessary checks.
- It is important to determine whether the suspension acts and
decisions are served on the employee electronically or by other
means. According to the amendments to the LC, the employee must be
able not only to save, but also print out information transmitted
electronically. For example, a document forwarded by email, which
can be downloaded, and which clearly sets out information that can
be printed by the employee, is deemed to have been properly
- As regards proper service, it is important to have an action
plan in the company’s internal procedure defining what to do
if an employee, for example, does not reply to an email.
- To prevent the employee from deleting or simply ignoring the
letter, it is advisable to, first, set a deadline for the employee
to acknowledge receipt and to familiarise him or herself with the
letter. Second, there should be a procedure on how the employer can
deal with the employee’s failure to reply within a specified
deadline. For example, there could be a provision that if the
employee does not reply to an email within a set deadline, the
employer has the right to call the employee, verbally inform him or
her about the document and discuss its content. In this case, the
document will be deemed to have been duly served.
- Another extremely important factor is ensuring that the
employee does not perform his or her job functions during the
period of suspension. In an office, this is very easy to do: taking
away the employee’s working tools, preventing him or her from
being present at the workplace, etc. However, the internal
procedure must also provide for how a teleworker will be prevented
from working during suspension. It must be possible, for example,
to disconnect the employee from the workplace system, deny access
to shared documents, block the employee’s email and other
accounts, and lock the computer. This may prove difficult if the
employee is using his or her own devices, such as a personal
computer. The Employer could block access to workplace servers or
systems, but as the computer is private, the employer would not be
able to deny access to all applications. The risks need to be
assessed and ideally, a separate work computer should be provided
for home working to avoid similar situations.
While suspending a teleworker is
certainly feasible, it is up to each employer to assess
the organisation‘s suspension procedure is
appropriate for this form of work. The best way is to
have an internal procedure that minimises inconvenience and risk of
disputes and makes it easier for the employer to deal with any
misconduct that could constitute grounds
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.