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:

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:

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

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.

Published 17 March 2023