Working mother and baby

Supporting returning workers

Returners have a wealth of skills and experience that your organisation could benefit from. The Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) have been working with returners and employers to understand how organisations can become more successful at hiring returners.

Who are returners?

The GEO defines a returner as somebody who has been out of paid employment for at least a year due to a caring responsibility.

Women are more likely to take time out for caring and account for 89% of people who are not currently economically active because they are caring for home or family (according to recent Labour Market Statistics data).

Why launch a returner programme?

In working with returners and employers the GEO has found that:

  • returner programmes are a great way to access a new talent pool, helping employers fill skills gaps
  • employers see returner programmes as an opportunity to get more women into their organisation


GEO guidance on how to run a successful returner programme will be available shortly. Sign up to the mailing list: email the returners team at GEO to hear about it first.

Top tips in supporting returners

A number of factors contribute to the success of returner programmes. These include:

1. Achieving buy-in from hiring managers

Make sure you gain the support of the departments and individuals who will be hiring and managing returners. It is also helpful to have a senior champion within the organisation.

2. Securing necessary funds and resources

Make sure you provide sufficient funding to support returners in their journey back to work. This could include scoping recruitment and training costs.

3. A suitable recruitment process

Make sure you tailor your recruitment process to your audience.

4. Offering suitable roles and working conditions

Make sure you can offer returners flexibility. Returners value flexible and/or part-time working and this should be offered at the point of hire, acknowledging everyone’s needs will be different.

5. Providing a meaningful role for returners during placements

Make sure returners have ‘meaty’ enough roles to fulfil during the returner programme placement period.

A HR professional's perspective on the value of returner programmes

The CIPD runs Steps Ahead Mentoring, a free mentoring programme in which HR professionals are invited to take on a mentoring role and help people, including returners, in their job search.

We asked HR professionals for their views on hiring returners, having been a mentor for someone wanting to return to work after taking time out for caring:

‘I would advise recruiters to consider creating more flexible roles, which also involves working from home. There’s a lot of talent out there and sometimes returners have some restrictions that don’t allow them to come into a 9am to 5pm job or shift job.’

Steps Ahead Mentor, Merseyside