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Free Return to Work Interview Template

A return to work interview is a meeting held between an employee and their line manager or HR representative after a period of absence. Although these interviews often form part of many businesses' absence management policies, they tend not to be formal.

Even so, it's advisable to have a consistent and standardised procedure for conducting them so you and your employee can get the most out of the process. As there is no legal obligation or official guidance on holding return-to-work interviews, it's up to you and your business to decide when to conduct them.

Typically, you'll find you don't need to conduct these sessions after a short illness, but if you notice a team member's absences are becoming more regular or are happening within a short space of time, you might want the option to speak to them too.

Whatever you decide, it's important your employees know what to expect from your whole absence management policy, including the return to work interview process.

What is Included in Our Return to Work Interview Template?

Our return-to-work interview form template can help you structure your meetings with returning employees, keeping them consistent for all employees. It includes:

General information - including employee details and details of absence.
Questions to help you cover all the essential points of discussion we've mentioned.
An employer checklist to help you leave the meeting with definitive actions.
Space for you and the interviewee to sign the form to confirm their understanding.

What is a Return to Work Interview?

Because the return to work interview isn't a formal process, you can run them in a way that suits your company. They can be in person or online, and you can decide how much time to allocate and the level of formality. Remember, all return-to-work interviews must be confidential, though!

Get ready by gathering all the necessary information, ensuring you are familiar with all your team member's records and previous work interviews or conversations. Before the meeting, you should also pre-prepare some questions - which you'll find in our template - and understand all the available support options.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1) Welcome the team member back

First and foremost, a return to work interview is there to welcome someone back to the business. Getting off on the right foot will also make the employee feel valued and help to put them at ease, allowing for more meaningful discussion.

2) Discuss any housekeeping

After a prolonged period, you might need to inform your team member of any business updates that have happened in their absence. Depending on the circumstances, this is also a great opportunity to:

  • Remind them that although it is an informal discussion, it will be kept on record.
  • Assure them it is not a disciplinary hearing or part of any disciplinary process.
  • Make the employee aware that continued absences might lead to disciplinary procedures where necessary.

3) Talk about the reasons for their absence

Gently ask what happened and find out why they were off. This will help you find out if there are any underlying issues, like stress, a disability, or maternity. Bear in mind disability and maternity illness should be recorded separately.

4) Confirm their absence record

Confirm your employee's absence record with them and tell them whether it has triggered any other absence policies and what that means.

5) Make sure they are fit to come back to work

If the employee was sick, find out if there were any recommendations from the doctor. If you are unsure, you can complete a work assessment form or consider encouraging them to have an occupational health assessment.

6) Discuss and agree on a plan for returning to work

Now it's time to make an action plan!

  • Find out what support they need, whether they want to return straight to full-time work, to a phased return, or flexible working might be more suitable.
  • Talk about what they would like their colleagues to know and what they would like to keep confidential.
  • Discuss any Discuss any reasonable adjustments to their work environment and decide whether you need to complete a work risk assessment form. to their work environment and decide whether you need to complete a work risk assessment form.

7) Invite questions

Your team member will likely have some questions too, so make sure they feel empowered to ask what they need. This is also an opportunity for them to express any anxiety or concerns about returning to work.

The Importance of a Return to Work Interview Template

Having a return-to-work interview template can be invaluable when conducting these meetings. This is because they help to:

  • Ensure consistency and fairness even when different people are running the interviews.
  • Keep thorough and complete records - this will help you collect clean data that will allow you to draw more definitive insights into absences.
  • Ensure you and the employee are on the same page when they return to work, with no misunderstandings or room for confusion.
  • Highlight any reasonable adjustments that need to be made.

How to Use the Learnings From a Return to Work Interview Template

It's not just about filling in and completing work forms. It's about using the information collected to ensure employees have the ability to carry out their job effectively. You can do this by:

Monitoring absences and spotting trends

Keeping a consistent record through a return to work template allows you to track reasons for absences, as well as their frequency and duration and spot any ongoing patterns or trends.

Uncovering any issues and identifying solutions

Using a return to work form also gives you better insight into why absences occur. If there is an increase in your team experiencing high-stress levels, it could indicate a broader problem.

The same is true of uncovering workplace bullying that could affect your team's mental health or reoccurring work-related physical injuries. Once you're aware of it, you can do something about it.

Identifying reasonable adjustments

Using a return to work form gives you a blueprint to help you make any necessary reasonable adjustments to the work environment. This will not only help your team member to be more productive when they return to their role but will also ensure you comply with your duty of care obligations as an employer.

This is particularly important if the employee is disabled, as it is a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010.