Elspeth Buck

Return To Work Interviews

According to Personnel Today, two out of three employers believe that return to work interviews have cut employee absence rates.

Why should I do a return to work interview?

A return to work interview gives you the chance to do a number of things.

  • Welcome the employee back to work, letting them know they have been missed, and if they feel missed they will feel valued.

  • Ensure the employee’s absent record is correct.

  • Update the employee on any changes or issues that may have occurred during the absence.

  • It enables the employee to raise any remaining health or other issues they may have and need your support with.

  • A return to work interview is also a good opportunity to offer help, if you feel the employee is behaving differently or maybe unwell, keeping in mind the problem may or may not be work related.

When should the return to work interview take place?

A return to work interview would normally take place within 72 hours of the employee returning to work however best practice would be the day the employee returns to work.

Should I complete a return to work interview for long and short term absence?

Yes, a return to work interview should be completed for any and all lengths of absence. Something to keep in mind is the employee(s) who goes home sick part way through a shift. It is worth while completing a return to work interview as this may highlight a pattern of someone who regularly goes home sick part way through a shift.

How should I prepare for a return to work interview?

  • Have the employee sickness record to hand.

  • Put time in your diary.

  • Book a room; remember the employee may disclose confidential information so hold the interview in a quiet place without any distractions.

  • Think about what questions you want to ask. These should be open, giving the employee a chance to talk freely for example, ‘how do you feel being back at work?’, may be better than, ‘are you happy being back at work?’.

  • Have a template “return to work” interview to ensure consistency. A sample template can be found on the FPM website, in the the protocols library (HR index).

During the return to work interview

Show the employee you’re interested with nods, reassurance and smiles. If the employee feels reassured they may have the courage to reveal information they find it difficult to talk about. If the employee becomes distressed, stay focused and reassure them you are there to support them.

Keep a record

Keep a record of the interview (this is where your prepared template would be useful) letting the employee have a copy.

Please note the above guidance is of a general nature. It is important that practices ensure policy guidelines and contractual obligations are followed.

In addition to the above FPM members can obtain further information via the FPM website. Alternatively members can also email specific questions about employment issues to advice@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk where your question will be treated in confidence and will normally be answered (by email) within 2 working days of submission.

Information from ACAS, Personnel Today and the HSE website has been used within this article.

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