Return to work interviews

09 July 2019

Managing sickness absence can be a difficult challenge for businesses who have no formal structure in place to deal with it.

Return to work interviews provide an opportunity for the employee to explain their absences and tend to reduce absenteeism. Employees may be more likely to give genuine reasons when questioned about their absence.

In this guide, we’ll explain what a return to work interview is, when they should be done and benefits of having them.

What is a return-to-work interview?

A return to work meeting is a meeting held on an employee’s return to work after sickness. The importance of return to work interviews cannot be overstated.

They can enable an employer to get to the bottom of the absence. By identifying the reasons for it they can see if there are any patterns emerging in the employee’s sickness absence.

As an employer, you should consider introducing a policy in your workplace. This can ensure you and your employees are adhering to the rules under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

When should a return-to-work interview be done?

A return to work interview should be held ideally before the returning employee starts back to work.

Establish how an employee is feeling and look to see if there are any lasting effects of the illness.

If an employee isn’t well enough to go back to work, find out this information out as soon as possible. In this case, they shouldn’t be work.

Example return to work interview questions

These questions can include the nature of the illness or injury.

If it has happened before, see if they are taking any medication to manage it and if it is expected to have an ongoing impact on their day-to-day life.

Here are a few examples you could use:

  • Ask your employee how they are feeling and if they’ve seen a doctor.
  • Ask if they need any support from you or others at work.
  • Inform them of their absences and ask them to confirm if they agree.
  • Ask if there is a disability involved with the absence in the last 12 months.
  • Ask if they have any questions for you.

If the information provided by the employee hits a ‘trigger point’, explain the consequences of a first, second, or third review meeting.

Are return-to-work interviews a legal requirement?

No, they are not a legal requirement, but they are highly recommended. It’s important to keep in mind employment law when conducting these interviews.

Make sure you treat your employees fairly and equality to protect yourself from claims of discrimination.

Benefits of return-to-work interviews

The benefits of holding return to work interviews are many.

Doing them as standard can be enough of a deterrent to some from having a ‘sickie’ day, as the employee knows they will be questioned on their return from absence.

There are many benefits such as:

  • Gain insights – these interviews are an opportunity to delve deeper into the nature of the illness.
  • Uncover issues - find underlying problems that need to be addressed or where further medical information may be required.
  • Identify reasonable adjustments - If an employee has a disability, by law an employer must consider making accommodations to help them return to work.
  • Spot trends – keep detailed records of these meetings. For example, some employees may tend to call in sick on Mondays and Fridays. This would require further investigation.

Disadvantages of return-to-work interviews

Frankly, there are not many. The biggest drawback of a return to work interview that employers perceive is that they are a waste of time, or inconvenience.

However, this is likely because they either have not used them previously, or not done them well.

There are examples of return to work interviews that can show them in a negative light, such as when managers take a critical tone or the employee refuses to engage.

But if managers are trained in conducting the meetings effectively, this is likely to reduce the possibility of this happening. And the advantages of holding return to work interviews will be evident.

Get advice on return to work interviews with Peninsula

Return to work interviews are a useful way for businesses to manage absenteeism more effectively.

These meetings can help spot patterns of absence and provide you with support to help your employees.

But if an employee has given you non-genuine reasons for their absence, you can enforce they attend an absence review meeting.

Peninsula provides 24-hour HR advice and can help ensure you are compliant with your return-to-work interviews and other actions concerning absenteeism.

Get in touch today; or use our callback form to arrange for us to get in touch at a time that is convenient for you. Call us on 0800 028 2420

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