Employee absences can have negative impacts on a business, such as a decline in productivity, morale and engagement. Absences cost companies, and although some absences are inevitable and unfortunate, it is important that employers seriously consider how they manage absences in the workplace, including absence policies, monitoring and prevention.
The return to work interview is one of the best methods of absence management. They help establish a tone of expectation and responsibility. For example, if an employee had been absent from the workplace every Monday and Friday for the past few weeks, and this had been monitored by the employer, who could produce evidence, the face-to-face interview is the best means of highlighting the issue with the employee and potential disciplinary procedures – or a strongly worded letter of concern at the very least! It is estimated that one in five absence requests are found to be fraudulent, and so early intervention with possible culprits in the workforce is highly recommended.
If the employee has just returned from work after a long period of absence recovering from a serious illness, then the interview is more of an informal event in which the employee is welcomed back and help offered in the form of reasonable adjustments to the employee’s working conditions.
Return to work interviews provide a document trail should it ever be required. They help confirm that the employee knows the rules and expectations with regards absence from the workplace, how the company intend to monitor future absences, and possible disciplinary procedures resulting from fraudulent absences.
Once the employer begins to monitor absence – reasons, periods of absence, frequency etc. – it should build enough data to spot trends and common causes for absence, whether attributed to individuals or the collective workforce. Monitoring is not just about exposing those who abuse the system – although it helps. Ideally absence monitoring will also allow the company to spot trends in absence that they can begin to alleviate through prevention schemes, policies and even shift or working periods.