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Never underestimate the importance of doing a return to work interview on your company's bottom line

by , 23 March 2015
Most managers believe return to work interviews are a pain. After all, your employee is back at work, your department's back to normal and his doctor's note already told you what was wrong with him.

But ignoring this vital part of sick leave management is a BIG error.

Read on to discover why this is so as well as exactly what you need to do when conducting return to work interviews.


The importance of return to work interviews explained

According to HR and employee relations group, ACSA, failing to do return to work interviews (or doing them wrong) not only costs your business time and money, it also sends the wrong message out to your employees. 
On a psychological level, not doing them can make your employees feel like they're just a number and not a person. After all, if you really cared about them, you'd want to know if there was anything bigger behind the reason they were off sick. 
The financial implications of not doing them, on the other hand, can come to haunt you if you're not aware that Jane's repeated bouts of flu are stress-related. By finding the underlying cause of her sick leave, a return to work interview can help you tackle the situation before it becomes a problem that affects your company's bottom line. 
But if you want this process to be effective, simply running through your company's return to work form won't help and ending the meeting, won't help. 
So what exactly should you talk about during this meeting? 
********* This is the solution you've been looking for ********
'Every year, SA companies flush R19 billion down the drain in sick leave payouts!'

Not sure what to talk about during a return to work interview? Here are four points you must cover

Use this meeting as a chance to:
1. Investigate the matter thoroughly 
Get your facts straight before you meet with an employee who's just returned from sick leave. Check his employee file to check how often he's been off sick and what the reasons were. If there's a pattern – either in repeated illnesses or frequent days away –  use this meeting to talk to your employee about what's really going on. During this time, draw up an Action Plan between you and the employee to tackle his absence record if you suspect there's a problem. 
2. Tackle an underlying issue that could lead to poor performance, incapacity or even dismissal
 To really understand how the employee is, you need to find out if there's an underlying reason for his absence. Then ask yourself if this is something you can help your employee with so that he's at work more often. For example, if your employee has been under the weather regularly, he could be stressed, suffering from depression or lacking the motivation to come into work. Talk to him to see if there's something more than just season flu and a weak immune system going on. 
3. Avoid a health and safety incident
You must find out if your employee really is fit to return to work and resume his normal duties? An employee who's still ill can create more problems than one who's off sick. Also, find out if any of the medication he's on will affect his performance in any way. You don't want to have a drowsy employee operating heavy, dangerous machinery. 
4. Catch them up on important changes
Even if your employee's only missed a day or two of work, things change so rapidly in business, he may need to be filled in on what's been going on. Use this meeting to bring your employee up to-speed with news from the team, department and organisation as a whole. Then, talk to him about his project priorities. He's probably stressed out about all the work that's piled up while he was on sick leave. Work out a project catch up plan together to ensure he won't miss any vital deadlines as a result of being off sick and that you know what you can expect from him in the days following his return. 
Bottom line: Don't play lip service to this crucial HR procedure. Conduct a return to work interview correctly and you'll find it's a valuable tool that actually adds value to your company's bottom line. 

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