Returnship programmes offer parents route back into work, yet only 4 percent of employers offer them

A totaljobs study of 2,600 jobseekers and nearly 100 employers claims that while a ‘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. The study found that 85 percent of employers are not aware of returnship programmes despite the fact that two thirds of recruiters believe they would offer returnships if they were incentivised by the government and 72 percent of employees would consider a returnship programme if they’d taken a break from the workforce.

Returnships are defined as 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 parents, 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 percent of UK employers have heard of them.  As a result, 95 percent 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 percent stating that they would do so if the initiative was incentivised by the government, as per the Apprenticeship Levy.

The study claims that 72 percent of employees would consider a returnship if they were to take a career break. This is particularly relevant to returning mothers 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 percent said that the programme helped ease them back into the workplace; while 16 percent 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, according to the authors. Women Returners Research by PwC claims 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.

Founder and CEO of Mumsnet, Justine Roberts said: ‘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.’