Return to work interviews are an essential tool for managing sickness absence in any organisation.
There is no legal requirement to conduct return to work interviews; it is left to the individual company’s discretion. If you do decide to conduct return to work interviews ensure all new employees are aware of this from the induction stage. Also, build them into your Sickness policy and procedure and refer to them within the employee handbook.
Despite the name, these meetings are not a formal ‘interview’, they are a conversation that should take place as soon as possible after the employee returns to work.
What is the purpose of Return to Work Interviews?
If conducted correctly, the purpose of a return to work interview is to :-
• Welcome the employee back to work
• Clarify the nature of the problem (reason for absence)
• Confirm that it has been resolved
• Determine whether the employer can do anything in support going forwards
When are Return to Work Interviews conducted?
They can be conducted after any length of sickness absence, with a new mother returning to work after maternity/adoption leave or with any employee who has been absent from work for any other reason.
How to conduct a Return to Work interview
• Welcome the employee back to work, explain the purpose of the meeting and check they are well enough to be at work and do their job,
• Take the opportunity to update them on any changes in the organisation whilst they have been off,
• Identify the reason for the absence and address any problem (work-related or otherwise) that may be causing or contributing to the absence,
• Discuss and/or identify any adjustments to the workplace/hours/duties that may reduce/eliminate absences,
• Review their sickness history and any patterns or trends in their absences,
• In cases where there is room for improved attendance, re-establish the organisation’s expectation in terms of sickness absence, the impact on the organisation and their colleagues, and the likely consequences if their attendance does not improve,
• Set a review date.
Key points to remember
• Document the meetings and ensure both parties have a record of the meeting and any action points discussed,
• Be prepared for the meeting: gather together relevant information, for example sickness record, pattern/trends in previous absences or previous return to work interview notes,
• Ensure that whoever conducts return to work interviews has the necessary skill and experience to do them.
• Remember this is not a disciplinary meeting – you are there to establish the facts relating to the absence and provide any necessary support.