Campaign launches for career returners

A new campaign has been launched by Career Returners to promote the benefits of hiring returners and to address the problems many still face to get back to their careers.

Returner Programme


Sarah Ellis had 14 years financial services experience before she took a six-year caring-related career break, during which time she became a certified Pilates instructor.  After taking part in Handelsbanken’s UK Returners Programme in September 2023, she has been working as a private banking manager.

She says: “What stood out is how much I had changed and matured. I found the social and networking side much easier than I thought I would and enjoyed it more than I ever had. The skills I learned from teaching Pilates to a crowd of people had changed me more than I had expected and gave me the confidence to present and express myself in a very different way. I was surprised at how much easier returning to work was compared to what I’d built up in my head.”

Employers who run returner programmes say they have brought greater diversity along with lots of enthusiasm and a broad range of experience. Yet a survey by Career Returners found 92% of experienced professionals are finding it challenging to return to work after a long career break, with 64% saying it is extremely challenging.

Widespread recruitment bias against the CV gap is seen as the greatest barrier (by 40%), followed by loss of self-confidence (32%) and recruiter ageism (14%). 98% of survey respondents were women. The survey also found that:

  • Over 25% of those searching for jobs have applied for 50 or more roles
  • 89% say that being on a career break has negatively impacted their self-confidence
  • Even though 93% believe they have developed valuable transferable skills during their career break, few believe that employers value these skills
  • Almost 70% want to work full time, although a degree of flexibility is key, with 80% preferring hybrid working
  • Three-quarters have taken courses, half have undertaken skilled volunteering roles and the majority have done some smaller-scale form of paid work during their break
  • Supportive returner programmes are preferred by 97%, with an equally split preference for a returnship versus supported hiring directly into a permanent role.

The anonymous Career Returners Indicator research study comes as Career Returners launches an #EndTheCareerBreakPenalty campaign, calling on employers to review current recruitment practices, remove biases and support a high-calibre diverse talent pool. Its action plan ‘10 Steps to become a Returner Inclusive Employer’ lists practical actions that employers of any size can take.

They include confronting the problems associated with automated systems. Harvard Business School 2021 research in the USA, UK and Germany found that 43-48% of employers with applicant tracking systems filtered out CVs of skilled candidates with CV gaps of over six months for that reason alone. Career Returners is calling on employers to check that their automated or manual application process is not screening out candidates just because of their CV gap.

Other steps include making sure job adverts are only asking for ‘current/up-to-date knowledge’ or ‘recent experience’ if this is essential;  adapting interview questions to not ask for ‘recent work examples’;  adding to job adverts ‘We welcome applications from candidates who have taken a career break’; running returner programmes; promoting the benefits of hiring returners; and training line managers in supporting returners.

Julianne Miles, CEO and Co-Founder of Career Returners, and a Chartered Psychologist, said: “We’ve partnered with over 170 leading employers to create supported routes back to work and, as a result, thousands of returners are back thriving in skilled roles. But, as the research shows, we need to accelerate the pace of change. Far too many talented professionals are still being blocked from relaunching their careers hit by the double whammy of widespread recruiter bias against a CV gap and the loss of self-confidence.

“There is a false perception that skills disappear during a career break. In fact, we have strong evidence that the opposite is true. Employers who have hired returners say they bring a fresh perspective, maturity, enthusiasm, and a high degree of motivation. Returner programmes have shown that most returners will rapidly regain confidence and get back up to speed in a supportive environment.”


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