Cards on table time. Do you ALWAYS carry out a Return to Work Interview when an employee comes back from a period of sickness?

Or, like many business leaders, are you too busy? Is it just another employee relations administrative job that takes you away from the really important stuff?

Alternatively, perhaps you feel very uncomfortable carrying out an interview which may be emotive, sensitive or even potentially confrontational?

What if I could show you that, far from being a trivial admin task, completing a robust, well thought out Return to Work Interview could actually boost your business productivity and, in turn, profitability?

What is a Return to Work Interview?

Quite simply, a Return to Work Interview (or you could call it a meeting if that feels less intimidating), is between an employee and their line manager, or another nominated person. Ideally, it will take place on the employees first day back to work and should happen whether they have been off for a long time or just a day or two.

The objective is to establish the reason for the absence, identify if there is an undisclosed root cause, update the employee on anything that may have changed whilst they were absent and ensure that they are fully supported now that they are back to work.

For example, you might discover that an employee has been off sick with a migraine, but as a result of the interview, that they are struggling with caring responsibilities or are being bullied in the workplace.

Now that you know the root cause, you are in a position to take the appropriate next steps.

What about the business critical benefits?

As an employer, you have a duty of care to your staff. To ALL of your staff.

Sickness can be a really tough thing for a business to carry and whilst the majority of your workforce don’t take advantage, human nature is such that some will. This can be especially prevalent if you pay full sick pay for all absences.

If you have an issue regarding high levels of short term absence, either across the whole business, a department or just with one individual, these interviews can serve a different purpose. That being, to provide a means to impress upon the individual(s) the impact those recurring absences have on their team, the business and, potentially, their job.

This doesn’t negate your Duty of Care but makes it clear to all, that the ‘odd day here and there’ spread across the year, DOES matter.

Very often when people have to explain themselves, face to face, to a colleague, line manager or HR person, the appeal of taking a day off sick when they could, in fact, come to work or use annual leave, is far less appealing.

Return to Work Interviews act in several ways. They send out a powerful message that the company culture does not just ignore or accept without question, even very short term absences. They ensure Employee records are fully maintained, vital in the event of future disciplinary actions. And they hold individuals accountable – to themselves, their colleagues and the business.

An example of success

Recently a client was really struggling with escalating levels of short term absence. In fact, 67% of all company sickness was attributed to this.

The client was exasperated by the impact this was having on productivity and profits. Employees who weren’t taking time off sick were getting increasingly fed up with carrying the work load of their absent colleagues. Customers weren’t getting the service they required.

To tackle this, we agreed that I would carry out all Return to Work Interviews on the clients’ behalf. It reduces his workload and, as I don’t work with his employees on a day to day basis, there is no risk that relationships might become awkward in the workplace.

Since implementing this change, my client now has 0% short term absence.

So, my question to you is, can you afford NOT to have a system for Return to Work Interviews?

For more information about this, and the full range of HR Support available, please click here to schedule a call or email me on [email protected]

If you would like a free return to work template form then please click here to receive a download.

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