Return to Work Meetings

Return to Work Meetings have been shown to be one of the most effective methods of combating short term persistent absence and maintaining a reliable level of employee attendance. Research suggests that most staff will think twice about skiving off work it they know that the absence will be noticed and questions will be asked by management on their return to work.

A key advantage of conducting Return to Work Meetings on a regular and consistent basis is that they allow line managers the opportunity to identify the possible underlying cause(s) of frequent non-attendance at an early stage and investigate if a particular absence may have been for a non-genuine reason.

Key Advantages of Return to Work Meetings:

  • Provide a forum for frank discussions about any relevant issues affecting employees’ attendance;
  • Help to pinpoint any underlying pattern of absence or cause of absence, which can then be discussed and tackled;
  • Allow managers to establish as accurately as possible the reasons for absences;
  • Demonstrate to employees that their employer notices their absences and consistently implements a policy of monitoring and recording all absences; and
  • Make it more difficult for employees to lie about the reasons for their absence, thus discouraging casual absence.

Return to Work Meetings are also a useful tool to use when an employee is returning to work following an absence for other reasons such as maternity or paternity leave.

When Should a Return to Work Meetings Take Place?

To be effective the meeting should be as soon as possible following the employee’s return to work, but certainly no later than the second or third day back.

What Should be Discussed at a Return to Work Meeting?

Return-to-work interviews are normally a private but informal discussion to determine:

  • If they are well enough to return to work
  • Whether the absence was work related
  • Whether there are any underlying problems i.e. financial/social
  • What steps the employee has taken to investigate the problem
  • What preventative action they have taken to prevent reoccurrence
  • Ensure the Company Self Certificate is completed and signed

If there is any discrepancy between the employee’s stated reason for the absence and the information given when notification of absence was originally provided, ask the employee to explain the discrepancy.

If their any grounds on which you may reasonably conclude that the employee’s absence was not genuinely for the reason given, put the evidence to the employee directly so that they have the opportunity to respond and provide an explanation.

If the meeting highlights an underlying medical condition it would be beneficial to seek the GPs opinion on the extent and likely duration of the condition. Consideration should be given to whether the condition amounts to a disability under the Equality Act.

Even where meetings are informal, keep a record that it took place and what was discussed.

Top Tips

The discussion will probably not take longer than 10 minutes and should be recorded for future reference.

The records don’t need to be lengthy, but should include the details of any action to be taken by the employee or employer.

Return to Work Meeting Record

Return to Work Meetings are useful for both short-term and long-term sickness. To be most effective the meeting should be held on the first day back from work. In most cases the meeting will be informal and last no more than 5 minutes and will:
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  • identify the cause of the absence
  • provide an opportunity to explore any particular problems the employee may have
  • demonstrate that absence is a high priority for the business and that stated policies are being put into practice

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Return to Work Meetings