What Is A Returner Programme

Posted: Monday March 7 2022

By: Abbie Coleman

Although still relatively new you may have heard of returner programmes, but do you know what they actually are?

What Is A Returner Programme

In short, a returner programme is meant to break down the barriers with re-entry back into the workplace for carers looking to return to the workforce after a career break offering the right support for them to do this in a supportive environment. Including mothers of young families and people who have been caring for others, including elderly care.

In my 20 years of experience in recruitment, I have often heard recruiters give feedback to working mums who are talented professionals with a wealth of previous experience looking to return to the workforce after having an extended break due to caring for children. This advice has often been downright insulting from telling these women to write about the new skills they had acquired while having children, including multi-tasking and organisation, I kid you not. And while I can feel your eye role, this is genuine advice given out by recruitment consultants believed to be good advice. These recruiters often gave this advice to returning mothers senior leaders with a wealth of skill sets and technical training, from specialists in financial services to FMCG. These women hadn’t lost these skills; having taken time out of the workplace, they hadn’t been wiped from memory. Some women may feel they need a catch up on skills to brush up in their field if things have moved quickly in the industry since they have been gone. Of which they are highly capable of doing. Or maybe they think due to the experience of trying to return to work, they felt apprehensive about the journey of barriers that lay in front of them including, and getting through the door was proving difficult with a career break. So returner programmes aimed to allow a work programme to provide qualified candidates with an intelligent, supportive environment to assist returners back into the world of work.

Over recent years, there has been a spotlight on the newly launched returner programmes run by businesses. Many of these are aimed at the 1.2 million estimated back in 2019. These returners have a wealth of experience looking to get back to their careers after having had time out of the workplace. This also covers working mums who have had time out caring for children and are looking to return to work full time or part-time. Post-Covid, we can only imagine this number of people with time out the workforce looking to replace has grown. Having run our MMB Returner Survey of working mothers returning to work we certainly saw the results supporting the need for returner support.

The government added 1.5 million to support 16 organisations in the private sector roll out returner programmes to help these carers and other rollouts in the public sector. How successful this was open for debate with its longevity after the funding ran out and can often be measured by the few returner programmes out there; interested to find out more on this, please find our article here on our thoughts.

Many of these returners are women returners; however, returner programmes are open to men and women.

Why Do Employers Use Returner Programmes / Returnship Programmes

Several reasons include allowing employers to access a large talent pool of mid to senior professionals who are often missed during recruitment drives allowing access to a new group of potential employees. This has shown to be an effective route in working towards closing the gender pay gap. There are also skills shortages in specific sectors, and engaging these career returners has been excellent access to the skill set in demand. Some of the programmes, such as tech programmes, will also support updating any technical skills needed in the field you have been in since your return.

They may also go under returnships, career returner programmes, or relaunch programmes.

What sectors are returner programmes in:

Essentially, they can cover a wide range of sectors and business skills, bringing real value and impact on all industries; however, from my experience there is a strong focus towards financial services and tech. Tech returners tend to be the most plentiful and include expert training within the sector. And although we are now seeing more programmes up north, there is still a concentrate of London based returner programmes. When I first started with MMB Magazine, I dealt with large corporates who ran returner programmes in London but would not consider Leeds or Manchester. This has changed, but there are still not as many programmes in the UK as there should be, so are limited spaces for program participants.

When can I start the returners programme?

Companies will typically run the programmes in cohorts with different start dates throughout the year for the application process. Some businesses will only run one returner programme through the year, while others, like FDM Group listed on our returner directory will have several cohorts in different locations. MMB Magazine also offers the MMB Returner programme, run through an employer for existing staff who have returned within 12 months of maternity leave rather than post two years.

Who is a returner programme or returnship programme aimed at

Predominantly programme participants are mid to senior-level experienced professionals returning to work following an extended career break or significant period of time that is usually a two-year break from the industry to qualify for the development programmes. At the end of the programme, many returner programmes will not always offer you a permanent position. Still, they can be a powerful tool to help you secure the new role if you feel you require support re-entering the industry.

Returner Programmes and Returnships typically require the following areas.

  • That you been out of work due to caring responsibilities for over two years
  • That you are looking to returner to a similar profession
  • That you feel you would struggle to gain a role back into your sector without support
  • Flexible working on the hours for you to attend the programme (This can be a significant barrier for women returning as they have to be able to support childcare while returning)
  • Flexibility on salary as many returner programmes will not pay a substantial salary. However, this is changing in some organisations. Again a massive barrier for women looking to afford childcare has to be flexible on hours in the returner programme.

Why not read more articles to support your return to work here or check out the latest returner programmes directory in our directory.

# Career Progression