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Returnship programmes offer mums route back into work, yet only 4% of employers offer them

A recent totaljobs study of 2,600 jobseekers and nearly 100 employers has shown that while the ‘Returnship’ initiative can offer a valuable route back into the workforce for anyone taking a break in their career, their success is hindered by a lack of awareness, rather than a lack of interest.

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Totaljobs

  • 85% of employers are not aware of returnship programmes
  • Two thirds of recruiters believe they would offer returnships if they were incentivised by the government
  • 72% of employees would consider a returnship programme if they’d taken a break from the workforce

A recent totaljobs study of 2,600 jobseekers and nearly 100 employers has shown that while the ‘Returnship’ initiative can offer a valuable route back into the workforce for anyone taking a break in their career, their success is hindered by a lack of awareness, rather than a lack of interest.

What is a returnship?

Returnships are high-level internships which help professionals that are looking for a new career path, back into work after a break in their career. Often paid, returnships give employers the opportunity to tap into an under-utilised pool of talent, such as returning mums, and provide a low-risk opportunity to assess a potential employee’s suitability for a permanent role.

Despite the major benefits returnships can bring to the wider economy and businesses in general, their success is hindered by a lack of awareness among employers. In fact, totaljobs research shows that just 15% of UK employers have heard of them.  As a result, 95% of employers do not currently offer a returnship programme.

After hearing about returnships, 1 in 5 employers believed they would offer such a programme, with 69% stating that they would do so if the initiative was incentivised by the government, as per the Apprenticeship Levy.

Why a returnship?

The study showed that 72% of employees would consider a returnship if they were to take a career break. This is particularly relevant to returning mums and besides the benefits that re-engaging talent can have for employers; returnships may also help industries that are tackling the gender pay gap.

Looking at the motivations for undertaking a returnship, half of employees who have already completed such a programme did so because they struggled to find a full-time job. A further 38% said that the programme helped ease them back into the workplace; while 16% state that they did not feel confident immediately returning into a traditional full time role.

Returnships are particularly useful for mothers returning from maternity leave, Women Returners Research* by PwC suggests there is both a significant personal and societal cost to not encouraging women back into work. Their report found 550,000 professional women in the UK are on extended career breaks for caring reasons, that 420,000 want to return to work at some point, and that two thirds (280,000) could be working below their potential pay when they return.

How do they benefit mums?

One company that does offer returnships is O2.

Speaking of the advantages it brought to her personally, Clare McIntosh, Head of O2 Drive Insurance, and mother of three, told totaljobs: “When I first came across returnships I was initially surprised as to why more companies weren’t offering them. For me, a returnship sounded ideal as it offered a test drive into working life for a set period of time, so if I couldn’t make the balance work, there wasn’t any pressure. I could move on with nothing lost, but with my skills refreshed.

“I’d fully recommend returnships to others, however for it to be really successful I’d say it needs to be backed by an employer who encourages flexible working, like O2. The scheme enabled myself and other returners to re-build our confidence back into the work place, whilst also providing a network to tap into to talk about issues we all had in common. Since the programme I haven’t looked back since.”

Founder and CEO of Mumsnet, Justine Roberts added: 'Returnships are a relatively new idea, but - as members of our Family Friendly programme can attest - where they're offered, they're taken up with gusto by highly qualified women wanting to come back to the workplace. Recruiting and retaining the best talent is a priority for any business, and returnships can be a crucial part of recruitment strategy for forward-thinking companies.'

Totaljobs’ HR Director, David Clift, said: “Returnships are an excellent way of welcoming employees back into the workforce, utilising their skills and making sure talent isn’t lost permanently. While returnships could be one of the ways of closing the skills gap the UK is facing at the moment, there is much work to be done in educating employers and recruiters on the benefits of such programmes. We are optimistic that these findings, as well as the government’s support, will encourage more employers to offer returnships and show those looking for ways back into work, that returnships are a viable track.”


Totaljobs surveyed 2,623 employees and 98 employers
*Women Returners Research Report, November 2016: http://www.pwc.co.uk/womenreturners