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23rd February 2016

Return to Work Management

Staff absence can have a massive impact on the smooth running of the practice. Whether staff absence is due to a short-term acute illness, or long-term chronic conditions, on their return to work employers need to conduct a ‘back to work interview’ for the benefit of the employee and the business, so that you can understand of the causes of the absence and be sure that the employee is fit to return to work.

The Interview

Before they resume their duties take time to follow a structured interview. The aim of this interview is to show your concern for the employee’s wellbeing and also to establish their readiness to return to their previous duties, without posing a risk patient’s interests. This is also an opportunity to update them about any events, or any changes that have been made during their absence.

You need to check that they are fully fit to return to the work they were doing before their absence. If they have a Fit Note, it may say they are fit for some work but must avoid certain tasks. Under such circumstances you will need to design new working arrangements with them.

Understanding their problem

Although there’s a line that should not be crossed when it comes to delving into an employee’s personal circumstances. As an employer you an understanding about any problems that prevent them from fulfilling their contract of employment. They may tell you, for example, that their sickness is a result of them being run-down due to the pressures of childcare, or through stress caused by bullying at work. If childcare is the root of the problem, you could help them to explore some problem solving strategies to overcoming this so it does not affect their work, you could make some suggestions or help them to research their options.

Problems Originating in the Workplace

If the returning employee claims that the root cause of their stress is workplace bullying, you need to discuss it with them and before considering your next move. Begin by referring to the practice policy on bulling and harassment and make sure that your intervention helps to identify causes and remedies.   Once this has been raised it must be addressed with fairness and regard for the rights of all parties involved. Many managers find a call to ACAS helpful. At least go to ACAS guides

General Problems with attendance

When there are concerns about an employee’s attendance this is an appropriate time for these to be addressed. Tell them what is expected from them and the likely consequences if this does not happen. If their level of continued absence is placing their job at risk this should be discussed with them.


When there is a disability issue linked to their absence, you are legally required to make reasonable adjustments and conduct a risk assessment to enable the employee to continue working. For absence related to the disability, keep a separate record alongside from other sickness absence records.

Glenys Bridges – QCS Expert Dental Contributor



Topics: Dentists

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