Are return to work interviews really that important?
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Return to work interviews (RTW’s) are all too easy to skip or do quickly when you are busy, and we understand that…but here is why they are so valuable!!!

We are all human and so from time-to-time people will go off sick. The last thing anyone needs is to feel worried about returning to the office or how to support an individual who isn’t fighting fit and ready to take back their full workload.

With increasing costs of living, it isn’t unheard of that people:

  • return before they should as they are worried about not being paid,
  • return because they feel they have too much to do,
  • return because they don’t want to let you down as absence can really impact small businesses.

It is all too easy for a quick email to be sent saying ‘I’m fine and back at work’ when in fact they shouldn’t be. RTW’s help to reduce this risk by creating open conversations and encouraging time spent face to face, be it in person or via a media platform e.g., Teams or Zoom etc.

Why is it so important when I hold the meeting?

We know you will have heard this before, but we aren’t afraid to be a broken record when it counts…RTW’s really do need to happen as soon as possible on the day a person returns, this is even more important for small business where just one person being absent can have a real impact!

By holding RTW interviews late, you risk a person returning whilst they are still unwell. As a result they will be unable to effectively perform which could lead to greater illness/injury and is therefore a health and safety risk.

Key things you need to establish are:

  • Is the person well enough to be back at work?
  • Can they perform in their job fully and well?
  • Was their absence related to work in anyway?
  • Are there any ongoing health and safety risks that need addressing?

How should I manage the meeting; what should I say and what do I need from them?

It doesn’t have to be a lengthy process; it doesn’t have to be awkward and intrusive – there’s no reason why anybody should dread the meeting and feel uncomfortable.  It’s simply about:

  • understanding the reason for the absence
  • ensuring they are well enough to be back at work
  • offering help, support and understanding

It is important to ask:

  • How are you feeling now?
  • Are you well enough to be back at work?
  • Did you see a GP or pharmacist?
  • Have you been given any medication and are there any side effects I should be aware of?
  • Is this an ongoing or recurring condition?
  • Has anything work related contributed to your absence?
  • Are there any adjustments that could help with your attendance?

…finally; ask if they have any questions or concerns.

Don’t forget though, it is a two-way process so you will also need to tell them about:

  • any work-related updates that they may have missed during their absence.
  • outline any absence triggers they may have hit and what this means e.g., an individual has had three incidents of sickness in a 6 month period and this will therefore lead to the start of a formal absence management process.
  • clarify how they will be paid.

Why do I need to record and save everything?

We say it all the time but taking notes of important conversations and meetings is vital and taking notes of the discussion that takes place at a RTW is no different.  You need to keep a record of what is discussed, the information that is shared, support that was agreed upon and any actions points that were made to support the individual moving forward.

We all want things to be simple, nobody wants to be digging through files and checking back through electronic records to write down what absence a person has had.  By inputting all sickness absence into the citrus HR software as and when it occurs you can view sickness absence and print reports at the click of a button.  These reports not only outline the dates and number of days absence, but also the reason, hours, and percentage of time lost.  All of which is essential when managing sickness absence!

So, in short – are RTW’s really that important…yes they are!!!

citrus HR can support you with all aspects of manging your people. We’re the small business HR and Payroll experts.  We all know that employing people can be stressful and there’s lots of red tape and paperwork that’s hard to get right.  Our helpful experts and clever software can take that pain way.

Get in touch on or give us a call on 0333 014 3888 to find out more about our easy to use HR Software. Or start your free trial today.

The content of this blog is for general information only. Please don’t rely on it as legal or other professional advice as that is not what we intend. You can find more detail on this in our Terms of Website Use. If you require professional advice, please contact 0333 014 3888 or email

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