The Little Gem That Will Help You Manage Attendance In Your Business

Time off sick is one of the biggest costs to business. Most of us are so glad to have staff back at work that the absence is quickly forgotten ….. until the next time!

A little gem in the management armoury, which has proven to work very effectively are Return to Work interviews. They might not sound the most exciting tool but seriously, a few of these for frequent, short-term absences and employees would rather avoid the idea of sitting for a ‘chat’ on their return!

Although they’re used most often following long periods of sickness absence, it’s really useful for employers to implement a return-to-work interview after absences for many other reasons.

Interviews give line managers an opportunity to identify the possible underlying cause(s) of frequent non-attendance at an early stage. They can also:

  • provide a forum for frank discussions about any relevant issues affecting employees’ attendance
  • help to pinpoint any underlying pattern of absence or cause of absence, which can then be discussed and tackled
  • allow managers to establish as accurately as possible the reasons for absence
  • demonstrate to employees that their employer notices their absences and consistently implements a policy of monitoring and recording all absences
  • make it more difficult for employees to lie about the reasons for their absence, thus discouraging casual absence

How formal should these interviews be?

They should be informal, but held in private. At the interview, the manager needs to:

  • explain to the employee that the purpose of return-to work interviewing is to manage and monitor employees’ attendance so that any problem areas can be identified and support offered where appropriate
  • ask the employee about the reason(s) for his or her absence, ensuring that the question is asked in a supportive way
  • if the reason for the absence was illness or injury, ask the employee whether or not he or she consulted a doctor or attended hospital
  • avoid asking intrusive medical questions of the employee, while at the same time seeking to establish the basic underlying cause of the absence
  • check that the employee is well enough to attend work
  • if there is any discrepancy between the employee’s stated reason for the absence and the information given when notification of absence was originally provided, ask the employee to explain the discrepancy
  • review and check the employee’s self-certification form, make sure the employee has signed it, and countersign the form

If the manager has any grounds on which reasonably to conclude that the employee’s absence was not genuinely for the reason given, the manager should put the evidence to the employee directly so that he or she has the opportunity to respond and provide an explanation.

Things to make a record of at each interview:

  • the name of the person who conducted the interview
  • the employee’s name
  • the employee’s job title
  • the date and time of the interview
  • the length of the absence
  • the date of the employee’s return to work
  • the reason given for the absence
  • whether or not the employee gave proper notification of absence and, if not, why not
  • whether or not the employee consulted a doctor or attended hospital
  • whether or not there is any suggestion that factors at work may have caused or contributed to the absence and, if there is, what these factors were and what action has been agreed to support the employee
  • whether or not the absence is part of an overall pattern
  • whether or not the employee has any type of disability

This type of record can be a really useful tool for consistent recording of both long- and short-term periods of absence. It should be borne in mind that each employee will, under the Data Protection Act 1998, have the right of access to the record once it is placed in his or her file.

If you’d like any support implementing Return To Work interviews, please contact us:

[email protected] or call 01386 751740. It could be very revealing!