The Importance of the Return-to-Work Interview

Posted on

October 1st, 2015


If you’re a supervisor who faces  employee absenteeism as a recurring problem, one highly effective approach to consider is the “return-to-work” interview, a meeting to be conducted as soon as possible upon an employee’s return to work. Consider this to be a “counseling interview,” the first in a formal sequence of meetings you’ll want to schedule if the employee’s absenteeism continues to be a problem.

In this first meeting, your goals are to welcome the employee back to work, establish the cause of the employee’s absence, demonstrate your commitment to controlling absenteeism, explain how the employee’s absence has affected the department, and determine steps to improve the employee’s attendance going forward.

If at this stage any medical condition is found that’s likely to affect the employee’s ability to do his or her job, arrange an appointment with a company-approved doctor.

At all times, you’ll want to demonstrate that your enforcement of absenteeism policies is facilitative rather than punitive. Stress also that your goal is to treat all employees equally.

If the employee’s absenteeism persists without adequate justification, you should proceed as necessary through a series of additional meetings, perhaps also involving human resources and a union representative. Sequentially, these meetings will take you through the verbal warning stage, the written warning stage, and temporary suspension from work. If the employee ultimately is found to be unable to comply with the firm’s policies on absenteeism, the final stage is termination of employment.

Distinguishing legitimate absences due to illness from unwarranted absences is a challenging task for any supervisor. However, through consistent use of the return-to-work interview, you’ll find you gain valuable insights and leverage in addressing the problem.