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Nothing damages your contribution from an employee as much as paying them to be at home when they should be at work. Even if you don’t pay them there are costs associated with their absence in lost productivity, cover at premium rates and disruption. Last year employees on average took nearly 7 days off sick. While much of this will have been due to genuine illness some, undoubtedly was not. Implementing return to work interviews typically saves 20% of absence and this 20% is often the most disruptive type of absence – unpredictable intermittent absence.

So why are “return to work interviews” so rarely a feature of employment practices in SMEs?

  • It is an uncomfortable process. It will be even more so if only carried out where there are “suspicions”
  • It is also uncomfortable if it is not properly planned. Like every planned interview it needs a structure – nothing complex but one that respects employer and employee’s rights.
  • Worse still is the discomfort felt if you believe the employee is not genuine about their reasons for absence. Knowing how to transfer that discomfort to the employee, without being disrespectful in the process, takes practice.

Surrounding the whole issue of longer term absence is the question about if and when you can ask for a doctor’s report – and what to do if permission is refused.

Despite the employer being vulnerable to employees misleading them, the responsibility for the absence can rest with the employer. Bullying, poor training, or role ambiguity can all cause the employee stress, which is an increasingly frequent reason for absence. A sympathetic and genuine return to work interview can uncover issues that the employer did not know existed.

We cover all this on our interactive training workshops that include invaluable practice of the tricky process of the return to work interview.