How to: Improve the effectiveness of Return to work interviews

8 Feb

Below is a great article from our partners at Honeydew

Day 1 Absence Management experts.

Honeydew will be joining us at our monthly HR Training forum  on Why HR should start managing sickness absence from Day 1?  14th March 2013 Start time 08:45 – 11:00 in Slough.

This is  a FREE EVENT.

To register email or visit our website and use  the contact us form.

Why not come along and meet other HR professionals and discuss issues relating to absence and Occupational Health.

In the meantime enjoy the article


Return to work (RTW) interviews have proven to be an effective absence management tool. However, some managers still struggle to undertake effective interviews or even find the time to carry them out.

There is much guidance on what questions and disciplinary action RTW interviews should include however this guidance is generally prescriptive and their timescales can be vague.

Here are 5 steps on how to improve your RTW interviews and ensure they have the best possible impact on your company’s absence patterns.

Step 1: Training

Ensuring that all the responsible line managers fully understand the importance and use of RTW interviews will make sure that the interviews are undertaken thoroughly and on time. By guiding them in what questions to  ask, the appropriate manner in which to ask them and importantly, the necessary procedures to take to enable an effective return to work (in the case of serious or long term illness), RTW interviews can only be positive.

Step 2: Layout

Every company will require a RTW interview to contain different questions and levels of detail in the answers reflecting company policy and specific health & safety protocols. To ensure there is no confusion, each company or if necessary, department, should have a RTW interview script layout to guide line managers during the interview. This should include all the relevant questions and accommodate the types of answers required. I.e. Tick boxes instead of blank boxes for answers.  To maximise consistency across the organisation.

In order to speed up the process for managers, HR should try and put in place a system that  pre-fill the interview form with standard information such as name of employee, department, dates of absence, initial reason etc. This will shorten the interview time and help managers conduct an effective RTW interview, even if they are short on time.

Step 3: Day 1

At least 90% of RTW interviews should be conducted on the employees’ first day back at work. Not only does this speed up the cycle of an employee returning to work in the right conditions, it also shows that from a managerial perspective, your absence has been noticed and is deemed as important.

Step 4: Update and show interest

Instead of a purely disciplinary atmosphere, use the time with the employee to show that you care. Welcome the employee back, ask them if there are any underlying issues the company can help them with, update them on any changes or new information they have missed while away and discuss theirworkload. Setting revised targets or explaining how they’re workload has been covered during their absence can help ease any worries they have had about returning to work.  – Make sure it is an ‘interview’ instead of a simple paper exercise, e.g. ‘Please sign on page 2′ and use the interview as the first opportunity to prevent an absence pattern from reoccurring.

Step 5: Appropriate further interventions

Remember to remind the employee of any company benefits in place such as for example the company  EAP service, PMI, physiotherapy clinics etc. and don’t hesitate to take further action if necessary, e.g. inviting to a formal meeting or referring to Occupational Health for further investigation if there is evidence of underlying medical problem.



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