Return to work interviews are one of the most useful ways to manage attendance and reduce absence levels.

When an employee returns to following a period of sickness absence, an employer may want to hold a return to work interview.

Employers should ensure that their sickness policy details that they will hold return to work interviews, to discourage non-genuine sickness absences and/or unauthorised absences.

Be Prepared

Return to work interviews ideally should take place as soon as possible after the employee has returned to the workplace.

They should take place face to face where possible, however, this may not always be possible.

In such cases, employers can conduct these meetings over the phone if it is reasonable to do so.

However, if the meeting is being conducted after a particularly long or complicated absence, then it should be done face to face. 

The interviews do not need to be overly formal and should be seen as an open discussion between employer and employee.

Be Accurate

Employers should ensure that they listen to what the employees have to say, and note any concerns they may have about returning to the workplace, and why they have taken time off.

It is important to always keep a record of any return to work interviews, to enable employers to accurately manage absences.

Be Consistent

Employers must ensure that they are consistent in their approach to employees.

Return to work interviews should be held with every employee following a period of absence, and not just a select few.

Only holding interviews with employees when you suspect that the reason for an employee’s absence is not genuine will cause upset amongst staff, which could lead them to resign and potentially bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

Be Sensitive

Employees’ medical records are confidential and should be stored in line with Data Protection Regulations.

Return to work interviews should be conducted in a private room, where the conversation cannot be overheard.

Employers shouldn’t pressure employees to give more details about their health or absence than they are willing to give.

The Formalities

Employers should make sure that both they and the employee sign any notes taken during the interview so that an employee cannot contradict themselves at a later date.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.