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Help and Support for Returning to Work
October 22, 2019
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Government Equalities Office has published guidance for those looking to return to work following a career break for caring responsibilities, and information for employers wanting to implement a returners programme at their organisation.

Businesses and organisations across the UK face the same issues around addressing the gender pay gap, accessing talented staff, reducing training costs and improving diversity.

There are currently over 1.2 million people in the UK who are out of work for caring responsibilities but would like to return to employment.

Recruiting experienced returners could help employers respond to these business challenges and help people back into work.

Returner programmes are a key priority of the government. The Government Equalities Office has awarded in the region of £1.5 million to sixteen organisations supporting returners in the private sector. They have also launched returner programmes that target key workforces in the public sector, including social workers, health professionals, and police investigators.

Applying for a returner programme

Returning to work after a career break can be challenging. There are a number of dedicated returner programmes that provide training and support to help people back into the workforce in a way that makes sense for them. Individual criteria for each programme will differ but most programmes ask for applicants that have been out of work for a year or more, either on a career break or for caring responsibilities.

Read our Returners Toolkit for advice, tips and support on returning to work.

Share your story

We are interested in hearing from returners who are currently on, or who have completed returner programmes. To share your own story, please email geo.strategiccomms@geo.gov.uk.

Read Returner Yemi’s experience of a returner programme.

Setting up a returner programme

Research shows that setting up a returner programme can have significant benefits for businesses, helping to increase the diversity of staff and expanding the level of experience within an organisation. There are two main routes for employing returners into your organisation:

  • Returnships: fixed-term contracts that cover competitive pay and extra support like training, coaching and mentoring.
  • Supported hires: permanent roles for returners, offering the same additional support such as training, coaching and mentoring.

Guidance on setting up a returners programme

Returner programmes: best practice guide for employers 
This guidance provides a framework for organisations to develop effective returner programmes. It applies to organisations in all sectors and of all sizes.

Returners: an introductory toolkit for employers 
This toolkit describes the benefits of returner programmes, top tips for developing a returner programme, how to attract recruits and case studies.

Returners: The Benefits of Implementing a Returners Programme 
This infographic provides an overview of the benefits of Returner programmes and employment methods.

Adapting your current employment practices

Our evidence shows that making small adjustments to a business’s employment practices can have a significant impact on the number of returners applying to your vacancies. Best practice includes:

  • Advertising your job vacancy as suitable for returners
  • Enhancing and promoting your flexible working policies – including flexible working opportunities to job advertisements

Find further guidance on flexible working practices and the 100 ways to work flexibly campaign.


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