As a line manager it is important to recognise the importance of ‘return to work’ interviews in resolving problems of sickness absence from work. The degree of formality and length of the interviews will depend on the individual circumstances, e.g. for an employee who is rarely absent from work, the interview will be brief and more in the nature of a welcome back to work. If, however, the employee is returning to work after a succession of frequent intermittent absences or after a long-term absence and may need support, the interview should be more structured. Obviously, this is a matter of judgement by the manager.
This ‘interview’, ideally held on the first day of the employee returning to work by the manager, should be supportive and sensitive, but should also emphasise the point that the period of sickness absence, no matter how brief, has been noted.
What should you discuss?
- The reason for the sickness absence and how the individual is feeling
- If there are any specific problems
- A review of the sickness absence period
- If the employee has followed procedures
- Reminder of previous sickness absence (if applicable)
- The importance of regular attendance at work
- Anything that they have missed whilst on sick leave
- Action, including support, and time scales (where applicable)
- A written record of the meeting should be shared, including outcomes
Ideally all employees should be interviewed following a spell of sickness absence as to randomly select individuals could be viewed as victimisation by the employee. Minor coughs, colds and flu can be discussed and it can be established whether there is an underlying cause such as stress which could be masked by these symptoms.
For more information about support for tracking staff absence and the return to work process contact our sister company for HR advice on 01924 827869.