Appendix 4: Telephoning staff off sick and return to work meetings

When a member of staff is off sick, line manager should be contacting staff on a weekly basis during the first four weeks off work and then a monthly basis after this, as a guide, obviously it may be appropriate for line managers to contact staff more regularly than this. When line managers contact staff they should cover the following topics, it may not be appropriate for the line manager to cover all of these topics each time they speak to the member of staff:

  • Sensitively explore the reason for the absence, the University pay for sick leave so have a right to know why a person is off sick, and enquire how the person is.
  • Establish whether the absence is work related.
  • Try to establish what steps the member of staff has taken to identify the cause and what they can do to improve their own recovery.
  • Find out what medical support they have received.
  • Find out if they know when they may be returning to work.
  • Ask them if they would like to be referred to Occupational Health, or say that you would like to refer them to Occupational Health.
  • If appropriate tell the member of staff about some of the things that have been going on at work.
  • It is imperative that line managers establish a time when it will be convenient for them to call the member of staff again.

Return to work interview

Research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2004 Employers Survey) has shown that one of the most effective ways of reducing sickness is for Line Managers to conduct Return to Work Interviews after every incidence of sickness with the member of staff concerned

Below is guidance is indicative of the types of topics that might be discussed in such an interview.

Interview structure

Welcome back

  • Welcome the individual back
  • Tell the individual what he/she has missed
  • Inform the individual that his/her contribution to the team is valued, be genuine but don’t over do it.

Enquire about health

  • You need to be sure the individual is fit to return
  • Sensitively explore the reason for the absence, as we pay for sick leave we have a right to know why a person is off sick.

You need to establish:

  • Whether the absence is work related
  • What steps the individual has taken to identify the cause
  • What preventive measures are being taken to prevent a recurrence
  • What measures the University can take to help prevent a recurrence.

Consider whether the individual should be referred to the Occupational Health Department – if you are not sure, seek guidance from the People Directorate or the Occupational Health Department.

Consequences and observations

  • Remind the individual of necessity for full attendance
  • Point out the effects on others of his/her non attendance
  • Using the attendance records draw the individual’s attention to their attendance record
  • Confirm the University’s attitude to good attendance
  • Use the opportunity to explore ways the individual can improve his/her attendance

Completion of formalities

Complete a Sickness Form and forward it to the People Directorate. See the Self certification form (Word).

Where you have concerns about the amount of sickness a person is taking follow the meeting up with a written memo stating the discussion and any action being taken and give a copy of the memo to the member of staff and to the People Directorate. If the individual does not agree with the memo then tell them they may submit their own version.

Future action

  • Reaffirm the University’s expectation of full attendance.
  • Explain to the individual the implications of any further absence.
  • Check that the individual clearly understands what is required of him/her in the future.

March 2013