Posted Date: 22nd September 2022


Have you conducted return to work interviews with the employee to date?

If not, you definitely need to start doing this. A ‘return to work’ or ‘back to work’ interview is a meeting you have with the employee once they’ve returned from a period of absence. It gives you the chance to check they are definitely well enough to work and allow an opportunity to discuss any underlying issues which you may be unaware of which are causing the employees absence, such as personal issues at home or mental health issues. It also gives you chance to ask if they’re on any medication which could affect their own or other employee’s health and safety it puts responsibility on the employee to take action for their absence and seek help if needed.


If the employee raises concerns regarding their role or the workplace which are causing their absence, can you action any reasonable requests or concerns?

As an employer you have a duty of care to protect the health and safety of employees, which includes their physical and mental health.


Is the employee providing you with fit notes from their doctor or other health professional?

Does the fit note have any recommendations on it of how you can support them? Employees don’t have to provide fit notes unless their absence is over 7 calendar days in length. Absences under 7 days can be self-certified by the employee.


Does the employee have a disability?

If yes, by law you must make reasonable adjustments if the person needs them. Reasonable adjustments are specific to the individual, communication is crucial to gather any particular requirements.


So, what now?

  • If you have a formal absence policy, always follow this. You may have triggers such as no more than two absences in a six month period, which would then prompt a formal meeting.
  • Invite the employee to a return to work meeting and ensure the notes are captured if you don’t have a form, cover the above and explore the absences, if appropriate remind the employee that their level of absence needs to improve as it puts additional pressure on other employees and the business etc.
  • Set absence improvement targets, such as no further absence for the next 6 months, or/and you could set objectives such as seeking further support from their GP or a physiotherapist for example.
  • If the employee fails to meet the target and their absence does not improve, you may feel it right to progress to a disciplinary hearing, (always following your disciplinary policy and procedure).
  • If the sickness absence is long term, or there are several short-term absences for the same reason, you could use an occupational health professional to assess the employee or request a medical report from their doctor (with their consent), to see if there are any adjustments that could be made to support them with their role or/and whether they are generally fit enough to conduct their role.
  • Following medical/occupational health advice, if there are concerns that the employee is not well or fit enough to carry on with their role, you should follow a capability procedure. If you have sought medical advice, regularly kept in touch with the employee during sickness, provided any reasonable adjustments and reviewed any alternative roles there may be no option but to consider medical capability dismissal


Should you need guidance with your absence concerns, get in touch with our HR Consultants who are available to support you.


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