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Return to Work Interviews

Return to Work interviews can be used to manage sickness and avoid high levels of absences. Such interviews can also be used to deter unauthorised and non-genuine sickness absence.

Such interviews tend to be carried out by the employee’s line manager who may refer them to an occupational health specialist to see if there are any adjustments which can be made to assist the employee.

How to hold a Return to Work Interview

To conduct a successful Return to Work interview the following steps should be taken:

  1. Arrange with the employee to have the interview on the same day as their return or as soon as possible. This will allow any issues to be raised and dealt with at the earliest opportunity.
  2. Welcome the employee back and check they are well enough to work and resume their usual duties.
  3. Update the employee on any changes that may have taken place to the business during their time off, i.e. new rules or policies.
  4. Identify the cause of the absence. For example if the employee has been off work due to a bad back from picking up heavy items at work or from not having the correct seating position.
  5. Identity any work place adjustments that are needed. If a Fit Note states ‘well enough to carry out some duties’ this should be further discussed and assessed to see what duties the employee could undertake. For example, the employee could undertake office based duties rather than manual handling.
  6. Complete a Return to Work plan with the employee which states how the employee will be supported throughout the few weeks post their absence. 
  7. Ask if there are any further steps that can be taken to avoid any further absences. 

The meeting should be recorded and a copy kept for further reference if needed.

If the employee’s record starts to show that there are frequent periods of absence which are unexplained or unjustified, this can be raised as a concern. The employer should then further investigate to ascertain the cause of the absence and whether any additional support can be given to avoid more time off.

If the absences become an issue then this should be raised with the employee and they should be aware that if this continues it may be treated as a conduct issue and they may face disciplinary action which could lead to dismissal.

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