Return to Work Interview

11 September 2020

If you have an employee off work for a long time, when they return you may want to conduct a return to work interview.

There are many reasons for this, but you can consider it an informal meeting to ensure the employee is prepared to begin working again.

So, how do you go about this process? We explain in our guide. But you can also refer to our HR services for immediate support.

What is a return to work interview?

It’s a short informal meeting held with an employee on their return to work after an absence. It checks in with the employee before they get back into their workload.

It’s not a requirement for businesses to carry out but it is a useful absence management tool many employers use. It can help reduce absences in the workplace by having a clear procedure in place.

If you plan on implementing this procedure, you should make this clear to each employee, right from induction.

Explain it in your handbook and carried out the same way for everyone to avoid discrimination.

The importance of return to work interviews

Holding one with your employee is an excellent way to understand your employee’s physical and mental health.

It ensures they’re ready for their return and also establishes whether you can take additional steps to make their working life easier.

In short, you meet your employee’s health & safety requirements. And in so doing keep their productivity to a high level.

As well as this, it’s best interest of the employer to note the specific dates and length of absence in each case, and the reasons for behind it.

Recording absences also enables the employer to spot recurring patterns of absence, for individuals and the team as a whole.

The back to work interview process

First, remember this isn’t a legal requirement for your business. You can decide to hold one if you feel it’s of benefit for you and your employee.

Once you have a date for when your employee returns, you should look to set a time to meet them. Preferably on their first day back.

You can follow a five-step process to guide the staff member back into life at the business. After all, some things may have changed while they were away.

  1. Welcome them: You should provide an encouraging return to their working environment, letting them know you’re glad to have them back.
  2. Provide updates: Cover any crucial developments while they were away. This may be for workplace health & safety updates, new colleagues, or for any new computer software they have to use.
  3. Consider reasonable adjustments: You should discuss any changes they consider appropriate for their return to work.
  4. Develop a return to work plan: It’s best to phase the employee back into work, so consider how you can do this to avoid any unnecessary stress.
  5. Let the employee ask questions: At the end of your process, but you should allow them time to discuss any issues you didn’t address in the previous steps.

You can complete a return to work interview form as you cover the above points. This is a simple sheet of paper where you can fill out important details with a pencil.

In it, you can cover all the key points you feel necessary upon your employee’s return.

For example, if the employee’s return to work interview is after stress, you may want to phase their workload so they’re not overloaded with projects.

So, it’s important to conduct note taking, so you can refer to key takeaways from the meeting.

Return to work interview questions

So, what should you ask your employees? There are certain return to work after sickness interview questions you certainly should consider asking. These include:

  • Do you feel fully fit and capable to continue your role?
  • Are there any changes you think are necessary for your working environment?
  • Do you think you need any additional training?
  • Would you like a phased return so you can get used to your role again?
  • Do you think you need any support from your colleagues?
  • Would flexible or homeworking help you in your role?
  • Do you have any questions for us?

Back to work interview questions should prove open-ended and allow for following debate. You should also consider the situation objectively.

If you’re wondering about if there’s a return to work interview time limit after the member of staff returns, there are no rules set around this.

You can hold the interview when you have the time. But the sooner you have the interview, the sooner you can determine ways in which you can assist them.

The benefits of return to work interviews

The advantages are for you and your employee—this is why it’s an important process to follow. First, we’ll take a look at how it can help your member of staff:

  • They’ll feel welcome upon their return and more optimistic heading back into their daily duties, especially after long-term absence.
  • They can highlight any concerns they have, so you can then make any reasonable adjustments.
  • Bringing them up to speed with new situations in your working environment.

For your business, it’s a chance to benefit from the following:

  • You return the employee back to their role through a carefully measure process, helping to maintain their productivity.
  • You’re fulfilling your duty of care to staff by ensuring you’re looking after their needs.
  • You can track the reasons for your employees’ sickness, ensuring you have a safer working environment for your workforce.

Of course, having no return to work interview is also acceptable. However, it may affect your employee’s ability to return to work successfully. So, it’s good business practice to hold one as soon as possible.

Need our help?

If you need further advice on how to conduct workplace meetings and interviews, call us today on 1890 252 923.

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