What do returner programmes do?

Return to work


There’s been a lot of talk in the last few years in certain circles about returner programmes – programmes designed to help those who have taken a career break back to work. It is a recognition that those who have taken a break – often when their children are very small – face a number of challenges getting back to anything near what they were doing before.

What is a returner?

The programmes are not just for stay at home parents, but for anyone who has taken a break – usually of at least two years, including those who have dropped off the career ladder, for instance, those who have set up a business or freelanced to gain flexibility.

They originated in the financial services sector which has traditionally had problems retaining women, but over the last few years, due to the concerted efforts of a band of campaigners, they have spread to other sectors and last year the Government pledged five million pounds to promote them further. There are now initiatives in the public and private sector, including for social workers, teachers and health staff.

Different types of returner programme

Under the returner umbrella are a range of different types of programmes.
Some are designed to prepare women for returning to work while others include paid internships and the possibility of permanent positions. Others still are supported hiring schemes so the returner goes straight into a permanent role. The CIPD’s Steps Ahead programme is a more generalised programme, for instance, matching returners with HR mentors who can help with writing cvs, job search and interview practice.

Some are London-based and others are nationwide. Some are just a few weeks while others last several months. Some target areas of particular skills shortages. Others target senior leadership positions where there are often few women. Some offer flexible working from the offset. Others don’t. It is up to you to research the different options in your sector and select the one that suits you best – if one yet exists in your industry.

What returner programmes deliver

Most involve participants receiving training, mentoring, networking opportunities and assistance with obtaining new skills and rebuilding professional confidence to aid their transition back into the workplace. However, there are subtle differences between programmes.

The aim of the initiatives is to highlight the talent out there, equip returners with the confidence and updated industry knowledge they need and make it easier for them to get in front of hiring managers. In the long term, the goal is to normalise the hiring of those who have taken a career break.

Returner resources

Workingmums.co.uk has a Returners Programmes page where it lists the latest initiatives and carries news and features about returners. It also hosts roundtables with employers about best practice in returner initiatives. If there are no returner programmes in your sector or area, Workingmums.co.uk has resources that can help those who have taken a career break get back to work.

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