Guide to return to work interviews

£ 20

This guide provides guidance on conducting effective return to work (RTW) interviews after periods of absence, helping managers gather relevant information, address any concerns or barriers, and facilitate a smooth transition back to work.

Reading time icon
Time to read / prep / use
5 mins
Document specs icon
Document specs
715 words, 2 pages
Date last reviewed icon
Date last reviewed
1 June 2024
Get a value bundle that includes our Guide to return to work interviews

Complete package
641 templates, our full range
£ 229
Management library
404 templates, to support a wide range of management events
£ 99
Absence and attendance toolkit
62 templates, supporting Absence and attendance processes
£ 35
guide to return to work interviews

What is this guide for?

The primary purpose of a return to work interview is to welcome the employee back, discuss the reasons for their absence and confirm that they are fit to attend work.

It is also an opportunity to bring the employee up to speed with any changes that have occurred during their absence, develop a return to work plan (which might include making reasonable adjustments), and identify any underlying health concerns that need to be addressed. 

Applicable legal jurisdictions
In which jurisdictions can this guide be used?
Great Britain & NI (United Kingdom), Worldwide

Guide to return to work interviews

Before conducting a return to work interview, identify a private room where the meeting can take place without interruption, consider whether it would be best to conduct the meeting over the phone or face to face, and gather any relevant information you might need at hand, such as the employee's absence record or fit note.

It is also a good idea to plan a loose structure for the interview to ensure all bases are covered. Examples of return to work interview questions include:

  • What caused the absence? Was work a contributing factor?
  • Is this an ongoing or recurring condition?
  • Did you see a GP? What was the outcome?
  • How are you feeling now? Do you feel able to return?
  • Could it happen again? Is there anything that can be done to prevent recurrence?
  • What adjustments might help facilitate a return to work? (For example, can changes be made to their working pattern, physical work environment and/or role?)
  • What support do they need to get back on track? (They might need refresher training, a prioritised action plan, etc.)

| Key resources

Return to work interview - model form

Benefits of return to work interviews

Though not a legal requirement, there are a number of business benefits of return to work interviews. In particular, they can help employers to:

Gain better insight into the reasons for and nature of absences

Was the absence due to illness or some other reason? If it was illness-related, holding a return to work interview is an opportunity to delve deeper into the nature of the illness and find our whether the employee is fully recovered or whether it is part of an ongoing condition. Either way, gathering this information will help to determine next steps.

Uncover issues and identify potential solutions

Sitting down with employees may help you to agree on some simple solutions to reduce persistent short-term absence and improve attendance. For example, you may discover that they are dealing with a family bereavement or some other serious personal matter, in which case you might explore whether their absences could be reduced through flexible working arrangements.

You may also uncover that those who are claiming sickness are actually avoiding work due to issues such harassment by a colleague, which will require you to investigate any claims and take appropriate action. Whatever the reason, the return to work interview should help you to get to the root cause of the problem, understand the employees concerns, and work with them to find a solution.

Monitor absences and spot trends

By keeping detailed records of these meetings, you may notice certain patterns emerging. For example, it might be that a few employees in the same team are taking absences because they are suffering from a particular ailment (e.g. back pain), or perhaps certain employees have a tenancy to call in sick on Mondays and Fridays which may require further monitoring and investigation. By honing in on these trends, you can identify specific underlying problems, review your current practices and decide how best to remedy the issue.

Identify reasonable adjustments

If there are signs that the employee is suffering from a long-term health issue which could be considered a disability, conducting a return to work interview provides an opportunity to explore what steps can be taken to assist them. There is an obligation on employers to consider making reasonable adjustments to the employee's role or workplace if they are disabled as defined under the Equality Act 2010. This might include making physical adjustments to the premises to make it more accessible, providing or modifying equipment, or altering certain aspects of the employee's role or working hours. These adjustments don't have to be expensive, and will help to prevent further absences and ensure the employee can be as effective as possible in their role.

Deter employees from pulling sickies

If an employee is taking frequent short-term absences and you suspect they are malingering, return to work interviews may act as a deterrent by demonstrating to employees that you are taking them seriously.

Holding a meeting after each absence will demonstrate to employees that their absences are being monitored, that their manager is spotting specific trends, and that disciplinary action may be taken against them.

🔒 To view this you will need to make a purchase.

🔒 To view this you will need to make a purchase.

Why buy our Guide to return to work interviews?

Our content:

Is easy to edit and execute, with comprehensive implementation guidance.
Is designed by accredited, experienced HR practitioners.
Maintains your compliance with ACAS guidelines, legislation, and industry best practices.
Includes 12 months access to your purchase, with email alerts if updated or expanded.

Stop doing this:

Wasting money buying documents that don't meet best practice or legislation.
Wasting effort searching for free documents that lack implementation support.
Wasting time creating documents from scratch.

I have just renewed our membership for another year for HRdocbox. It's an extremely useful resource with a wide variety of documents and knowledge...
★★★★★
- Rachel Masing, ETM Group

I have been using the service now for around 6 months and it has been really useful in developing and updating polices and processes.
★★★★★
- Jamie Allan, Armstrong Craven

Excellent library of resources and templates which have made my job in my small business so much easier to manage HR for my employees...
★★★★★
- Emma Hunt

Great value and the site contains an extensive library of essential HR documents. I access the site probably once a week...
★★★★★
- Laura Alliss-Etty

HRDocBox is a great resource. It is incredibly good value, providing a large selection of HR guidance materials as well as...
★★★★★
- Emma Beauchamp