Return to Work Interviews


| 87 Posts

Chartered Member

4 Dec, 2017 19:39


I’m just looking for some advice/thoughts on return to work interview at schools and how they are received by teaching staff.

At the start of this academic year I implemented a new managing sickness absence policy and part of this was that every member of staff recieves a return to work interview on their return from an absence due to sickness - standard practise I have found in the commercial sector where I’ve come from and it was well received by our recognised union when we broached them with the concept. However since implementation the Heads have received countless complaints about the process saying it’s not necessary it’s a waste of their time and the latest one it’s too personal and sensitive as we ask if they have visited a doctor, the address of the doctor, treatment received and date of visit.

The Head has asked if we can removed this part as it’s upsetting people but I can’t see the issue with the information requested? So I was just wondering if anyone else’s return to work forms asked for this information and whether it is common or not to request this in the education sector? I now have to justify to the Head (after justifying why we need RTW interviews at all as they were going to pull them all together!) Why we need this section I always thought it was in case we needed to contact their GP, and so we were made aware of the advice of the GP in case we needed to make any adjustments or in the care of threatment any medication someone was on in case of side effects etc. Am I wrong and we don’t need this information?

I have had absolutely no issue from support staff regarding the process and personally don’t see an issue especially considering the very generous sick pay teaching staff receive!!

Thoughts or example return to work forms very much welcomed as I’m starting to lose the will to live!

Thank you Freya

  • David

    | 21834 Posts

    Chartered Member

    5 Dec, 2017 00:25

    Hi Freya

    Outlined at some length for example here


    ( Natalie who wrote all this is one of the best employment solicitors around, IMHO and unsolicited testimonial / no connection other than as a satisfied customer of course)
  • David Perry

    | 5375 Posts

    Chartered Member

    5 Dec, 2017 07:41


    No interview of this sort should ask the same questions for everyone. Which I way they'd complain - and so would I.

    If one of the questions, is asking someone whether they went to the GP, that is for me in some circumstances totally reasonable. But whats the point in asking someone that question if they've been off a couple of days and you believe that the reason they were off was true and you trust them? I'd see that as a total waste of my time - and yours.

    However if they were some skiving, idler who took any chance to have a few days of sickness and you didn't believe they were ill, then I'd be asking them about the GP, what symptoms they had and so on, deliberately making them uncomfortable and so on.

    One form doesn't fit all if everyone has to be treated equally. And not all absences are equal.!!
  • David

    | 21834 Posts

    Chartered Member

    5 Dec, 2017 07:43

    In reply to David:

    PS Freya

    Re the problems you’re having because it’s a school with a Head Teacher in charge, the fundamental problem is of course that many Head Teachers are where they are because they are exceptional teachers but their role demands them to be good managers, which a great many are not and never will be. Added to the culture and mindset of many of the teachers they’re in charge of, which similarly (at best) tends to put pedagogy at the top of their list of job priorities and contributing towards the efficient delivery of such at the very bottom.

    Unless the Head Teacher is willing one way or the other to recognise their management responsibilities, I’m afraid you’re probably going to be on a hiding to nothing here, unless you can find some support amongst the governors or trustees for this proposition - might be worth a try (very discreetly of course)
  • David

    | 21834 Posts

    Chartered Member

    5 Dec, 2017 08:16

    In reply to David:


    Do agree with my namesake! - as Natalie’s notes say somewhere
    , intrusive questioning on sensitive / personal medical matters should be avoided, focusing rather on the absence itself and past and future absences from work. Asking for GP details routinely I’m sure doesn’t help at all In this regard
  • Keith

    | 11579 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    5 Dec, 2017 08:28

    I think this is one of those areas where its best to go back to your reason for doing this in the first place. They are a good idea (that is proven to help attendance) but no real need to over complicate things at all.

    the point is (a) To let the employee know they were missed (b) to see how they are and if they are fit to return to work and (c) to find out if you can do anything to help their return.

    None of these require a long lengthy form or to know (generally) who the GP is, what their address is or how long your inside leg measurement is.

    Keep it very simple - its the conversation that makes the difference not the form.
  • In reply to David:

    Dear David, I agree with aspects of your reply but I would not agree that many Heads have the role they do due to being exceptional teachers when the role requires them to be good managers. That is a rather outdated assessment to be honest. The path to becoming a Head in the Twenty first century requires considerable management experience, not effective classroom practice alone. I have experience in senior management in a number of schools, state and independent, and experience in the commercial sector after deciding to leave education. In my experience, many Heads have excellent management skills it is just that, like all managers, there are strengths and areas for development. What I would say is that return to work interviews in schools are pretty standard so the issues raised may be due to that particular context.
  • David

    | 21834 Posts

    Chartered Member

    18 Dec, 2017 18:30

    In reply to Mark:

    Hi Mark and welcome to Communities
    But I don't agree my assessment was outdated - rather, based on considerable encounter and observation of head teachers - and the firm impression that absence control isn't done very well in many schools and incompetently in some.
  • Our RTW are used to confirm the reason for their absence and to ensure they are fit to return. they are used more to check on their welfare.

    If staff absence is an an issue, line mangers and/or the employee can request a referral to our external OH for support and guidance.

    HR do not carry out RTW unless in exceptional circumstances.

    Employees will be referred to HR and invited in for a formal meeting to discuss their attendance if this falls in line with a high Bradford Factor score.

    Hope this helps.
  • David

    | 21834 Posts

    Chartered Member

    16 Jan, 2018 15:14

    In reply to Stacey Prendergast:

    Hi Stacey

    Think that's good with the exception of your last sentence, which surely at the very least needs 'normally' inserted after the 'will' - otherwise isn't it just mindless management by (often spuriously=misleading / meaningless_ numbers emanating from a very dodgy and discredited methodology?
  • In reply to David:

    I agree David. There are times when we as HR personnel need to prompt managers in to having the difficult conversations with staff. We must act impartial and support both the school in implementing the policy and also the employee in managing their absence by providing support for their health and well-being.
  • Hi there, we have had rtw forms approved by our leadership team. Sometimes they are led by our administrators but Heads always sign them off. The forms we use are not seen as intrusive.
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