Return to work guidance: best practice advice for HR following absence

Posted by James Arquette on 15/10/15 10:50

Do you struggle to find the time to stay on top of sickness absence and return to work procedures? It doesn’t have to be long-winded or overly complicated, as there are established practices you can build upon.

Take return to work interviews, for instance. They enable you to record and manage sickness absence efficiently and consistently. They’re also an extremely effective way of welcoming your employees back to work properly, ensuring they’re fully fit to return and identifying any underlying issues that might affect future absence.

However, as effective as return to work interviews are, many people are put off by how drawn out and consuming they can be. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Believe it or not, the vast majority of return to work interviews can be completed in less than 15 minutes and still be incredibly valuable. How? By ensuring your return to work interviews cover these five factors:

FACTOR 1: Manager awareness

Managers need to understand the reasons for carrying out return to work interviews and what the organisation is trying to achieve by conducting them. There’s no point in asking managers to carry out these interviews if they don’t fully understand the rationale behind them and how they can add value.

FACTOR 2: Thorough preparation

Return to work interviews are particularly effective and quick if the manager who’s conducting them is fully prepared. For instance, is their absence data already printed out and ready to refer to? Do they know what questions they’re going to ask?

FACTOR 3: Appropriate approach

Employees may feel anxious, concerned or even embarrassed and fearful about the sickness they have had and its impact on their contribution to the workplace. As a result, return to work interviews can be very emotive affairs for employees. Guidance therefore needs to be given to managers on the best way to conduct the meeting.

FACTOR 4: Support recommendations

Return to work interviews present a great opportunity for line managers to introduce employees to support services, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), physiotherapy, smoking cessation classes, exercising clubs and other health and wellbeing services. However, line managers are often unaware of the support options in place so can’t recommend them to staff.

FACTOR 5: Policy awareness

One of the goals of a return to work interview is to see if any formal or informal action needs to be taken with the employee. This may range from issuing warnings to making referrals to support services, such as occupational health. However, before suggesting any action, managers must consult their absence policy to ensure they make relevant recommendations at the appropriate time.

Considering these five factors will ensure you get the most value out of your return to work interviews. 

We’ve also created return to work interview forms for non-medical and medical absences and an absence report to ensure you have the guidance and templates you need to conduct your return to work interviews.

Topics: Mental health, Absence Management, NHS, Remote Working, Employee Rights, wellbeing, Compliance, Leadership, WFH, Working from Home, technology, nurse, Management, Absence, Data, Support, Customer Care, Customer service, FirstCare, FirstCareInsight, Insight, Portal, Fit Note, HR, Human Resources