Employer guidance: helping people return to work
Information for employers who want to support returners or offer a returners programme. It includes guidance, evaluation of government-funded programmes, and research on recruitment.
Businesses and organisations across the UK face many challenges, including:
- adapting to the changing world of work
- accessing talented staff to tackle skills shortages
- improving diversity and inclusion
Recruiting experienced returners could help employers respond to these challenges and help people back into work.
Between 2017 and 2021, the Equality Hub delivered 25 returner programmes across the private and public sector to support returners. They awarded around £1.5 million to 16 organisations supporting returners in the private sector. They also delivered returner programmes targeting public sector workers including social workers and health professionals.
You can read evaluations and learning from these programmes at:
- Returners Grant Fund: evaluation report
- Return to ICT Programme: evaluation report
- Return to Planning Programme: evaluation report
- Return to Social Work Programme: evaluation report
- Return to Practice Programme: evaluation report
The STEM returners pilot builds on the learning from these programmes to encourage those who have taken breaks to care for others back into STEM.
Setting up a returner programme
Research shows that employers gain significant benefits by supporting returners, including access to a high-calibre talent pool of experienced and mature people.
There are 2 main routes for hiring returners into your organisation:
- supported hiring: bringing returners directly into permanent roles, and offering support such as training, coaching and peer support networks
- returnships: fixed-term contracts that offer competitive pay and the same additional support
Read our employer guidance on setting up a returners programme. It applies to organisations in all sectors and of all sizes.
Adapting your recruitment practices
Our evidence shows that making small changes to recruitment practices can have a big impact on the number of returners applying to vacancies. Best practice includes:
- enhancing and promoting your flexible working policies, including advertising jobs as flexible – research shows that many non-workers want to work flexibly, and job adverts offering flexible working attracted more applicants than adverts where flexibility was not mentioned
- avoiding unnecessary requirements that might discourage returners, such as asking for recent work experience or references – research shows that presenting roles in terms of years of experience increased callback rates, compared to using chronological dates
- advertising your job vacancy as suitable for returners, and part time if possible – research shows how advertising jobs as part-time had a positive effect on the number of women that apply
You can also consider:
- developing a communications plan with targeted digital and media activity
- timing your process to avoid peak periods such as school holidays
- using inclusive and encouraging language and tone in your communications
- keeping assessments straightforward and assessing only the skills that the role requires
- designing a flexible onboarding process, with sufficient notice of dates and format so that returners can make plans for their caring commitments
Find further guidance on actions to support women to progress and 100 ways to work flexibly.
Share your best practice
We are interested in hearing from UK employers who are supporting returners. To share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read employer experiences from the CIPD returner programme.
Information for returners
If you are looking to return to work, read our guidance on returning to work after a career break.