Return to work interviews

The Importance of Return to Work Interviews

The Importance of Return to Work Interviews

In the dynamic landscape of modern business, the return to work interview has emerged as a critical tool for fostering a supportive, efficient, and productive workplace. They can be an effective way of reintegrating employees and reducing bogus absences. Return to work interviews should be conducted when an employee returns from any absence period and will ensure that an employee has the support that they need to return. They may also offer advantages to companies looking to build integration, a strong company culture, and a happy and productive workforce.

All employers should have a process they follow when someone returns to work, and this should be detailed in the employer’s absence management policy if they have one.

A return to work is often just an informal catch-up between the employee and their line manager. However, this should be documented and any suggestions for support should be actioned immediately. 

Reasons to conduct a return to work interview

There is no legal requirement to have a return to work interview but having one as soon as possible after the employee has returned is a good opportunity to:

  • Ensure the employee is fit and ready to return to work.
  • Discuss any work updates that happened whilst they were off.
  • See if they need any support upon their return.
  • Agree on a plan for returning to work (if appropriate).
  • Talk about what they would like other employees to know and what they would like to keep confidential.

There are also strong commercial reasons to hold return to work interview:

1. Reaffirming Employee Value

Return to work interviews provide a platform to reaffirm the employee’s value to the organisation. This process signals to the returning employee that their presence and contributions are missed and valued. This can significantly boost their morale and sense of belonging. By acknowledging their absence and expressing genuine interest in their return, employers can strengthen employee loyalty and engagement.

2. Assessing Fitness for Work

An essential aspect of these interviews is assessing the employee’s fitness for work. Whether the absence was due to illness, injury, or personal reasons, it’s crucial to ensure that the returning employee is physically and mentally prepared to resume their duties. This step helps in identifying any accommodations or adjustments that might be necessary to support the employee’s successful reintegration into the workplace.

3. Identifying Support Needs

Return to work interviews are instrumental in identifying any additional support the employee might need. This can include modifications to their work environment, flexible working hours, or access to mental health resources. By addressing these needs proactively, employers can prevent potential issues that could affect the employee’s performance and well-being, thereby promoting a healthier and more supportive workplace culture.

4. Uncover Issus and Identify Potential Solutions

Meeting with employees may help you to agree on some resolutions to reduce repetitive short-term absence and improve overall attendance. Their absence may not be solely due to illness, and this may highlight additional issues at work or home.  Whatever the issue, the return to work should help you to get to the root of the problem and work with them to find a solution.

5. Reducing Absenteeism and Presenteeism

Regularly conducting return to work interviews can contribute to reducing both absenteeism and presenteeism. When employees feel supported and understood, they are less likely to take unnecessary leave. In addition, return to work meetings may also act as a deterrent for regular absence as you are demonstrating to employees that you are taking them seriously. Furthermore, by ensuring that employees are truly ready to return to work, employers can mitigate the risk of presenteeism, where employees are physically present but not fully productive due to unresolved health or personal issues.

6. Enhancing Communication and Trust

These interviews provide a structured yet personal setting for open communication between the employee and their supervisor. This interaction can uncover underlying issues that might have contributed to the employee’s absence, allowing for a constructive dialogue on how to address them. Enhanced communication fosters trust and a more transparent relationship, which is foundational for a harmonious workplace.

7. Compliance and Record-Keeping

From a compliance standpoint, return to work interviews help ensure that the organisation meets legal and regulatory requirements regarding employee health and safety. Detailed records of these interviews can be invaluable in demonstrating the company’s commitment to supporting its workforce and adhering to occupational health standards. This can be particularly important in cases of workplace injuries or chronic health conditions.

Return to work interviews are more than a procedural formality; they are a strategic tool that plays a crucial role in the well-being and productivity of employees. These interviews can help to create a positive and productive work environment. Employers who prioritize and effectively conduct return to work interviews will invest in a resilient, engaged, and high-performing workforce.

How can HPC help?

Our team of qualified HR consultants can assist you with your company’s return to work process including a return to work interview that covers the essential areas and the creation of an absence management policy.

To find out more information or if you require any advice about return to work interviews get in contact with our team of experts.

T: 0330 107 1037


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