Study calls for more support for women returners

A new study from Vodafone shows women returners have more issues with childcare and a greater loss of confidence following extended periods of leave than their male counterparts.

woman looking at office buildings


Women are twice as likely as men to lose confidence as a result of long periods spent away from the office, such as for parental leave, according to a new report, which calls for money to be set aside to help women returners back to work.

The Lost Connections: Supporting Returners into the workplace in 2021 and beyond report by WPI Strategy for Vodafone found that women returning to work are also likely to face bigger challenges when it comes to balancing caring responsibilities and meeting the cost of childcare.

The findings may also have implications for the millions of furloughed workers and those returning to the workplace after more than a year of remote working, says Vodafone.

The report includes polling from Survation of more than 1,000 people who had returned to work after an absence of a year or more. Over a third (37%) of those returning to the workplace after a year or more away experience a loss of confidence in their own ability. This loss of confidence is almost twice as prevalent for women as for men, with 42% of women lacking confidence in their own ability compared to 24% of men.

Just under a third (31%) of women returners said they found it hard to reacclimatise to working life following such a long break, compared to 25% of men. 71% of returners said they felt cut off from the world of work during their time away from it, with younger workers aged 18-24 particularly impacted (74%, compared to 65% of those aged 45-64).

The research also finds that women returning after a career break face bigger challenges than men in balancing work with caring responsibilities and meeting the cost of childcare:

  • Balancing work with caring responsibilities was a challenge for 41% of returners, and was felt more keenly by women (45%) than men (30%).
  • 40% of all returners said the cost of childcare was a challenge. This was cited by 46% of women returners, compared to 23% of men.

The report highlights the need to support returners, and especially female returners who have the potential to contribute over £1 billion to the UK economy, and to make sure the challenges they face are properly addressed.

The report argues that employers and the government need to provide greater support to encourage people who may have taken a career break back into the workforce; and calls for the Government to allocate part of the £2.5bn National Skills Fund to help returners develop the appropriate skills.

It also suggests employers are open-minded about gaps in individuals’ CVs during the recruitment process and provide additional support systems for returners.

Laura Farris MP, Co-Chair of the Women and Work All-Party Parliamentary Group, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see businesses like Vodafone leading the way in this work by recognising the value of returners and putting in place schemes like ReConnect to support their return.

“This agenda is even more pressing now given the economic impact of COVID-19 and the number of people who have been out of an office environment or furloughed over the last year.”


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