The GEO’s recruitment process focussed on my skills, so I did not have to explain or justify the ‘gap’ in my CV
Published: 21 Mar 2018
The Government Equalities Office are delighted to sponsor the Working Families’ award for the Best Returner Programme. Many people struggle to find good jobs after taking time out to care for their families. This is a huge loss to the economy, employers and individuals. In Spring 2017 the government allocated £5 million to increase opportunities and support for returners in the public and private sectors.
There is a range of barriers for people who would like to return to paid work. We have been working with stakeholders, employers and returners to understand the barriers that returners face. A lack of jobs offering flexible working; a lack of support for returners to get back into paid work and a perception amongst some employers that returners lack up-to-date skills, experience and knowledge. Returners, by definition, are people who left employment for a minimum of one year, usually to take on caring responsibilities. According to the latest ONS data the vast majority of returners are women, but all returner programmes are open to both men and women. While the GEO focuses on people returning to work after caring for their families, it is worth bearing in mind that the younger generation are likely to spend more time working that any previous generation so it is possible that the idea of taking time out of paid work and then returning to a position at a similar level will become embedded in working life.
The earliest known returner programme took place in 2014 and was set up with the express purpose of overcoming return-to-work barriers. There have now been about 40 returner programmes in the UK and this is the first time that the best returner programme will be chosen and awarded. Returner programmes offer a supported bridge back to the workplace and the Government Equalities Office has just published Best Practice Guidance for employers who would like to run a programme. Returner programmes accept that returners have been out of the workplace for a period of time and that they will need some support in returning to paid work. Flexible working is key to a good returner offer, so that returners can still meet their caring commitments and work at the same time. Over the past few years there has been a change in the conversation about part-time and flexible working in senior level jobs and the idea and practice of flexible working is slowly gaining ground. Returner programmes also usually offer mentoring and opportunities to refresh professional skills.
Employers have the potential to benefit for returner programmes. The possible benefits can include providing access to a high-quality talent pool; assisting in increasing diversity in an organisation; increasing the productivity and performance of a business and helping that business to fill key skills gaps. Returner programmes could also go some way towards helping a company address its gender pay gap. Finally, running a returner programme could send out a signal that a company values and understands caring commitments.
The Government Equalities Office has launched a new series of programmes for returners in social work and within the health and the civil service sectors. The GEO has just taken on its own returner, Vivien Kelly, who is a Communications Lead. This is what Vivien had to say about returning to work:
“I’ve just done my first week back at work after a long time, in the Government Equalities Office, as part of their team working on returners. Putting policy into practice, I am actually their first returner. I worked in advertising for over a decade before taking a break, so last autumn I was thrilled to find a course designed for marketing professionals who’d taken time out of the workforce (Back2businesship, run by f1 recruitment). The women on the course were a very talented and experienced group of people and their absence is a loss to the industry. The course demystified the digital revolution, helped us understand the job market’s skills-based approach (which, fortunately, plays to returners’ strengths) and let us hear the experiences of many inspirational women. It also opened our eyes to the steady rise of returner programmes in this country, and recounted the incredibly strong business case behind them.
The GEO’s recruitment process focussed on my skills, so I did not have to explain or justify the ‘gap’ in my CV. They are also happy to let me take some weeks of unpaid leave over the summer holidays, so that childcare costs are manageable.
I feel incredibly lucky to be starting a placement at the GEO. I have first-hand experience of the calibre and energy of returners and it’s a fantastic area in which to work.”
This is the first time an award for a returner programme will be presented and Working Families and the GEO are very proud to be involved. No matter the size of your business, if you have a great returner programme please tell us about it and enter the Working Families Best Practice Awards. We look forward to hearing from you!