Friday, 01 March 2024 13:28

The Value of Return-to-Work Interviews

Sickness absence management is one of those unavoidable jobs that comes with the territory when you become an employer. There’s a long and varied list of ailments that we, as humans, are susceptible to, so it would be very rare to never have anyone go sick from your entire workforce.

The health and well-being of employees is paramount to the success of any organisation so it makes sense to have a considered a formalised approach to how sickness and associated absence is managed. One of the elements of a strategic approach to managing employee health , that we sadly see lacking amongst many employers, is Return to Work interviews (RTW).

RTWs, conducted after an employee's period of sickness absence, are often eschewed by employers as they can sometimes be seen as a means of checking up on their employees thereby engendering feelings of mistrust. However, executed consistently and competently, such interviews offer a wealth of benefits that not only support the individual but also contribute to the strengthening of the business as a whole.

Facilitating Open Communication: Return to work interviews provide a structured opportunity for open dialogue between managers and employees. This communication channel helps in understanding the reasons behind the absence and any ongoing health concerns. By expressing empathy and showing concern for their well-being, businesses can foster a supportive work culture, enhancing employee loyalty and trust. This level of openness ensures that employees feel valued and understood, a crucial factor in boosting morale and employee engagement.

Identifying Underlying Issues: One of the key advantages of RTW interviews is their ability to uncover underlying workplace issues that may contribute to sickness absence. Whether it's work-related stress, physical strain, or environmental factors, these interviews can highlight areas that require attention and may not have otherwise come to light. Addressing these issues not only helps in reducing future absences but also in creating a healthier and more productive work environment.

Tailoring Support and Adjustments: Every individual's health needs are unique, and RTW interviews allow businesses to tailor support and make necessary adjustments where reasonable and sustainable. From modifying workloads to offering flexible working options or ergonomic adjustments, these interventions can significantly aid in the employee's recovery and reintegration process. By adapting to the needs of their staff, businesses demonstrate a commitment to employee welfare, leading to increased satisfaction and reduced staff turnover.

Enhancing Legal Compliance and Risk Management: Conducting RTWs also serves as an essential component of legal compliance and risk management strategies. These interviews help ensure that businesses are aware of and can accommodate any health-related limitations, thereby reducing the risk of potential legal issues related to workplace health and safety. Furthermore, having documented discussions can provide valuable records should any disputes arise, protecting both the employee and the employer.

Boosting Productivity and Reducing Absenteeism: Ultimately, the goal of RTW interviews is to support employees in their return to work, thereby minimising the impact of absence on productivity. By addressing health concerns and making necessary adjustments, businesses can help employees return to their roles more quickly and efficiently. This proactive approach not only reduces short-term absenteeism but also contributes to a more resilient and adaptable workforce.

Consistency is vital here, not only for the reasons above, but also to ensure that no individual feels singled out or victimised if they are interviewed following a period of absence and other employees are not. We recommend that an RTW is undertaken for every period of absence, even if it is just one day. If employees expect it, they won’t feel they are being picked on.

The key to realising effective return to work interviews is for managers to be confident and competent in handling the conversation. They should have an appreciation of what they can and cannot say, feel confident in the approach they take and deliver the right amount of empathy.

We have a range of documents relating to absence and Return to Work Interviews in our Attendance Toolkit. Including letters, forms and checklists. They’re available to buy and download and of course they’re free for our EmployerGuard clients. Additionally, we can offer training so that all of your managers feel confident and comfortable requesting and holding return to work interviews.

One of the hardest conversations to have at work can be when someone’s life is affected by a terminal diagnosis or a life limiting condition. Claire Davis, CEO of Longfield Community Hospice, will be covering this topic during our Employment Law Update Breakfast Meetings scheduled for May.

Call us on 01452 331331 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to start a conversation about any of the issues raised here and visit our events page to book onto our breakfast meeting or any of our other events.


Read 520 times Last modified on Friday, 01 March 2024 14:03


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

We deliver excellent management and soft skills training suitable for all organisational levels. We are ILM and City & Guild accredited and Ken Blanchard approved.  





We are located in Gloucester in the West of the UK close to the M4 and M5 corridors. For a precise map and directions find us on Google Maps

We have clients all over the UK but predominantly within about an hour's drive time of our offices; in Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Bristol and Swindon & Wiltshire.