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Return to work conversations following absence

When carried out effectively, return to work conversations are proven to be the single most effective measure for reducing short-term unscheduled absence. For the employee, these conversations demonstrate that their absence was noticed, and that the employer wants to take the time to find out how they are. They also indicate that managing unscheduled absence is a priority.

In many cases a return to work conversation would be a quick and informal check-in with the employee. However, where there is a pattern of short term absences occurring, you may need a more structured meeting.

The below information should be used as guidance. It aims to support managers in having return to work conversations. As a manager, you are in the best position to determine how to structure each discussion to suit the given circumstances.

The objectives of having a quick check-in conversation following short term absence are to:

  1. Welcome the employee back.
  2. Check that the employee is ready to return, and has not come back too early.
  3. Seek the cause of the absence and give the employee an opportunity to highlight any relevant issues.
  4. Offer solutions to any issues raised and where appropriate, refer to employee assistance programs.
  5. Agree a review period and/or any actions required, if appropriate.

The above is not an exhaustive checklist. Most times, people will be forthcoming with information if you just simply ask: How are you doing? Are you ok to be here? Is there anything I can do to help?

Last reviewed: 
29 May 2018