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Return to Work Form

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Published May 9th, 2020

What is a return to work form?

A return to work form is used to document information about employees coming from a prolonged period of absence (e.g. due to injury or sickness) and their ability to return to work and fulfill their job duties. It is either used for self-certification or as a tool during return to work interviews. During the return to work interview, employees complete their form with their manager, and, together, they outline how the employee could be reintegrated back into the workforce as seamlessly as possible.

What is in a return to work form?

Within the return to work form, managers and employees will need to typically provide details relating to their absence, such as: 

  • the duration of absence;
  • the method used by employees to notify of their absence;
  • the reason for absence;
  • details about previous absences over the past calendar year (if applicable);
  • a summary of the return to work plan; and
  • reasonable adjustments/accommodations necessary to help the employee go back to work safely

Why is it important to go through the return to work form?

While filling out a return to work form is not legally required in the U.S. and U.K, it is a vital tool for companies to understand employees, identify any patterns in absences, and determine ways on how to support them and reduce absenteeism in the long-run. Additionally, going through return to work forms help:

  • discourage unauthorized and non-genuine absences;
  • confirm the accuracy of an employee’s absence record;
  • inform employees about the necessary updates that have taken during their absence; 
  • identify any workplace adjustments that may be needed to help the employee adjust during the reintegration; and
  • develop, discuss, and agree on a Return to Work Plan.

Employers may decide to make return to work forms and interviews as requirements of their return to work program to help them ensure proper documentation of the processes.

What is a return to work interview?

A return to work interview is a brief meeting between an employee and the manager on the former’s return to work after an absence. This discussion serves as the manager’s acknowledgment of the employee’s intention to return to work and the method to determine the most suitable return to work plan for the employee.

How To Facilitate an Effective Return to Work Interview

To carry out an effective return to work interview, managers should consider the following:

Before the Interview

  • It would be beneficial to review the employee’s attendance record over the year and the return to work interview notes attached (if applicable). This will allow the manager to have a better foundation of how to support the employee when making the return to work plan.
  • Use a return to work interview form template as a guide for structuring the interview, but make sure to maintain a two-way communication throughout the process.
  • Choose a meeting space where the employee will feel comfortable.

During the Interview

  • Be clear that the purpose of the meeting is to provide support to the individual in his/her return to work.
  • Discuss with the employee the notes from their previous return to work interviews and establish what help the employee is currently receiving.
  • Discuss the cause(s) of absence and the likelihood of the illness recurring and give the employee the opportunity to highlight any relevant issues.
  • Probe if there are any personal or work-related concerns that might affect their attendance. If there are personal issues, discuss whether there are any support mechanisms/actions that the employee or the manager may reasonably take to seek to alleviate the problems, e.g. access to counselling, staff helpline etc. If the problems are work-related. If absences relate to disability, pregnancy or a work related accident, undertake a return to work risk assessment.
  • Establish if any ‘reasonable adjustments’ are required to their role or work environment.
  • Remind the employee of the mutual obligations – i.e. that it is the individual’s responsibility/contractual obligation to attend work, and the employer/manager has a corresponding responsibility and concern for the employee’s wellbeing.

After the Interview

  • Both parties should sign the return to work form once the action plan has been agreed. This information should remain completely confidential.
  • If appropriate agree on a review period and/or any actions required.
  • Make sure to identify specific actions and inform responsible task owners.
  • Be available to talk to/meet with the employee, should they have any issues following the RTW.

Digital Tool to Help Workers Get Back on Track Fast and Safe

Prolonged absences in the workplace can drain a company’s productivity and an employee’s morale. With this, it’s important to understand the ‘why’ of employee absence to be able to help them get back on track as quickly and safely as possible.

Paper-based return to work forms or complicated systems are effective at recording return to work interviews. However, they can cause inefficiencies down the road as paper records can be lost or destroyed, causing the company to lose crucial information about employee attendance. With iAuditor by SafetyCulture, the world’s leading inspection software, managers can do away with paper return to work forms and shift to a digital process that can help improve efficiency in performing return to work interviews. Furthermore, managers can:

  • customize return to work forms according to the company’s standards or their country’s best practices;
  • allow collaboration amongst adjusters, medical case managers, risk managers, HR reps, and safety personnel and discuss the best way to get an employee back to work;
  • immediately assign actions (with automated notifications) to assigned personnel to help the employee adjust seamlessly on the return to work process;
  • enable digital sign-off with the employee on the agreed return to work plan; and
  • have access to a dashboard that helps analyze insights from return to work interviews across the department or the entire organization.


John Derick Flores

SafetyCulture Staff Writer

Dirk is a contributing writer for SafetyCulture who has 3+ years of experience being a Safety Officer in an international airline. Over the course of his tenure, he worked on projects involving training management, ramp safety inspections, quality & safety certification audits, and safety promotion programs. Further, he is interested in maximizing the power of technology to help make the world a better place.