Return to Work interviews are usually carried out after employee absence, whether this absence is for more than seven calendar days covered by a doctor’s note or less than seven days and self-certified. There may be issues that employers need to be aware of surrounding the absence or return, this is the purpose of these interviews.
Though this is called an ‘interview’ it does not need to be so formal and can simply be a meeting between employer and employee. There are areas you need to discuss with the employee but you also may need to make the employee aware of any changes within the workplace, especially if they have had a long period of absence. The interview is not a disciplinary hearing and any concerns to do with the absence should be addressed using the normal disciplinary procedure.
A return to work interview can be used to find out the reason why an employee has been absence for work. If the reason revealed is unconnected with work this should simply be recorded however, where a reason identified with the workplace is brought to light this should be addressed. Any workplace issues raised such as bullying, harassment, should be investigated and the return to work interview can be used as evidence later down the line to prove that you were aware of these and, as such, you should have resolved them.
If the absence is connected with a disability, the interview will be an appropriate forum to discuss with the employee any reasonable adjustments needed. You can also remind employees of their rights to request flexible working, if eligible, as this may reduce the likelihood of future absences.
To carry out a successful return to work interview the following areas should be covered: the employee’s current state of health; the reasons and dates of absence; appropriate documentation covering the absence; any advice received from GPs; any reasonable adjustments to be made or help you can give; their recent absence record and any consequences of further absence, in a non-disciplinary manner.If you need any clarification on this issue then contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.