Sickness - Return to Work Review Guidance Notes

Return to Work Reviews

Guidance Notes

Research has shown that return to work reviews are the most effective way of managing short term absence. They should take place following each period of absence, regardless of the length of the absence, ideally within the employee’s first day of return to work.

Line managers should conduct the review. Where individuals request an alternative person to carry out the review, for reasons such as poor relations or gender issues, then this should be mutually agreed.


  • To welcome the employee back to work.
  • To ensure the employee is fit to return to work.
  • To identify the cause of absence.
  • To agree a way forward, if relevant.
  • To up-date the employee on what’s been happening in the workplace.
  • Be mindful that this is an informal meeting and not a disciplinary hearing, the purpose is to establish the facts.


  • Ensure that you have a suitable location to hold the review. It should be held in a suitable environment, i.e. a private location and not in the middle of an open-plan office.
  • Gather information on the employee’s current period of absence and also previous absences.
  • Be prepared to discuss patterns or trends of absence, if relevant.
  • Approach the meeting with an open mind.


The nature of the discussion will vary according to the frequency, length or nature of the absence, but some of the following points may be relevant:

  • Welcome the employee back.
  • Be positive, highlight that they have been missed.
  • Explain purpose of the meeting is to establish why they have been absent from work.
  • Try and determine the cause of absence, be sensitive and calm if personal problems or stress are discussed.
  • Listen to the employee, give them chance to explain.
  • Respect their privacy if they do not wish to discuss the reasons for absence. If this does happen then you can offer them the option to speak to somebody else. If not then you should highlight that if you don’t know the problem you are unable to help and their absence will continue to be monitored.
  • If the absence is work-related, what can be done to help, i.e. adjustments to work hours, work place or duties.
  • Establish of the employee is undergoing any treatment, will time off be required for medical appointments.
  • Are there any other factors contributing to the absence.
  • Place current absence in the context of previous absences.
  • Explain the impact of their absence on the colleagues within the College/Department.
  • Explain that their absence will continue to be monitored in line with the procedure in the Absence Management Policy.
  • Agree the next steps, such as a follow-up review, referral to Occupational Health, attend a training course.


  • Ensure that the correct certification has been provided.
  • Complete the return to work form, ensuring that both parties sign to confirm their agreement in what is recorded.
  • Send the appropriate certification to Salaries and Wages.
  • Send the return to work review form to Personnel.

Download the  Sickness - Self Certification Form in English.

Download the Sickness - Self Certification Form (Welsh version)  in Welsh.