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Help for small firms

Managing staff absence: A step-by-step guide

Step 1: Return to work interview

Managing staff absence - Step 1

Hold a return-to-work interview

Use return-to-work interviews:

  • to welcome the employee back, check they are well enough to resume duties, focus on their value to your business and update them on any changes
  • if they have a Fit Note, to discuss the details. If it says 'may be fit for some work', you will need to discuss a new working arrangement. For example, if it says the employee must avoid lifting, you might be able to get them to do more administrative duties until they are feeling better
  • to get a better understanding of their problem. They may tell you, for example, that their sickness is a result of them being run-down through having to care for an elderly relative or through stress caused by bullying at work. If being a carer is the root of the problem, see if they have any ideas for overcoming it so it does not affect their work, or you could make suggestions. If the root cause is bullying, you need to discuss it with them and then consider your next move. But deal with these matters - they are only likely to recur if you don't. Go to Acas guides on Challenging conversations and how to manage them and Advice leaflet - Bullying and harassment at work: Guidance for employees for more on these topics.
  • in cases where there is room for improved attendance, an employee must be told what is expected and the likely consequences if this does not happen. They should also be told if their level of absence is putting their job at risk.

If the employee is disabled or becomes disabled

In these cases, you are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to enable the employee to continue working.

For example, providing an ergonomic chair or a power-assisted piece of equipment. If absence is related to disability, keep the record separate from other sickness absence.

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