Sharing best practice for returner programmes

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Career breaks should become the norm as people work longer. That means employers need to pay serious attention to how they can reintegrate returners into the workplace and make the most of the different perspectives they bring, according to a new white paper by Workingmums.co.uk.

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The paper is based on a roundtable event this month with some of the employers leading the way on returner programmes. The event was hosted and chaired by UBS.

Returner programmes have gathered momentum in the last few years as employers seek to plug skills gaps. Last year the government announced that it was putting aside five million pounds to encourage more returner initiatives in the public sector.

Carolanne Minashi, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at UBS, said returner programmes’ popularity was in part an innovative way of expanding the female talent pool.

Participants agreed that business reasons for hiring returners included increasing diversity, plugging skills gaps, bringing in people with a different mindset, meeting targets and backing up commitments to increasing the number of women in senior roles and addressing the gender pay gap.

The paper shares individual employers’ experiences of returner programmes, including some of the challenges they have come up against. These include the difficulty of securing head count, setting expectations and working out what is the best length and format for a programme.

Key findings include the need for:

  • Support and engagement from the executive
  • Support for line managers so they understand the issues facing returners
  • Pre-interview preparation for returners, such as through a Webex conference
  • HR to be smarter about how they support returners due to generally limited resources, for instance, extending parental leave coaching to returners
  • A flexible work culture so returners who want to work different patterns do not stand out.

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