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A manager’s guide to return-to-work interviews

Return-to-work interviews are an effective tool for managing sickness absence. 

Frank and informal, these meetings aim to welcome employees back to the workplace, with due regard to any issues still relevant to the employee’s wellbeing and their ability to effectively carry out their responsibilities.
A return to work interview is useful for;

• Helping to identify underlying causes of absence.
• Demonstrating to employees the impact of their absence on the business. 
• Communicating to employees how you monitor absence.

As a manager, you should have reviewed the employee’s sickness absence record, current GP Fit notes and/or a summary of any medical advice prior to conducting a return-to-work interview. And remember, any information you record during a return to work interview falls under “sensitive” data, in line with data protection law.

Points to cover during a return to work interview

• Explain that the purpose of the return-to-work interview is to monitor absences so that problems can be identified and support offered where appropriate.
• Remember this is not a disciplinary meeting.  Avoid a disciplinary tone. 

• Confirm that the employee is fit to return to work and hours of work.
• Discuss and agree the details of any phased return, restricted or light duties.
• Where appropriate ask the employee to confirm if they are taking medication and have to self-medicate during working hours.
• Agree a date and time to meet again and review progress, if necessary.

• Ask the employee about the reason(s) for his or her absence, ensuring that the question is asked in a supportive way.
• Ask the employee whether or not he or she consulted a doctor or attended hospital.
Seek to establish the basic underlying cause of the absence but avoid asking intrusive medical questions of the employee

• If there is any discrepancy between the employee’s stated reason for the absence and the information given when notification of absence was originally provided ask  the employee to explain the discrepancy; and 
Review and check the employee’s self-certification form, making sure the employee has signed it, and countersign the form. 

• Ask the employee if they have any questions about their return to work.
• If the employee has a record of frequent absence, state the company’s expectations for improving attendance.

• Explain potential outcomes if the company does not see the improvements required.
• Provide a copy of the current sickness absence policy and procedure for personal reference.

For more help, get in touch
Managing employee absence can be highly delicate and complex – and we’re here to help you meet the challenges and stay compliant. From employment law to all aspects of HR management, our team of barristers, solicitors and HR professionals provide you with all the expertise you need to help your business thrive.

Call us on 0845 293 9850, or email [email protected]

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