Almost a third of workers have taken a career break

Effective returnships are a ‘win win’ for businesses, says employment expert

A Just under one third (32 per cent) of the working age population has taken some form of break during the course of their career, research released today has found.

The study by CV-Library found that, of those who had stepped back from permanent employment for a spell, 30 per cent did so to take care of children, 25 per cent to look after another family member, 24 per cent to travel, 21 per cent to get back into education and 16 per cent to start their own business.

However, around three-quarters (73 per cent) of the 1,200 respondents surveyed said it was difficult to get back on the corporate ladder after a career break – a figure that rose to 78 per cent among women.

Meanwhile, two-thirds (68 per cent) felt that more should be done to help people return to work after a break, and 49 per cent said not enough organisations offered returnship schemes.

“Returnships could be a great opportunity for employers to upskill more senior professionals, and take on talented members of staff who could really strengthen their existing workforce,” said Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library. “Not only this, but people who are given the opportunity to re-enter the workforce will likely remain more loyal to the company – a ‘win win’ for any business.”

The vast majority (86 per cent) of those surveyed thought returnships were a good idea, with around half (47 per cent) saying they were a great way to ease people back into work. However, more than a third (35 per cent) said they were sceptical of returnships because there was no guaranteed job at the end, while 32 per cent were wary that they could allow companies to financially exploit a vulnerable category of workers.

“Though some [respondents] clearly still have reservations about these schemes, for the majority, returnships seem appealing,” said Biggins. “Businesses considering these programmes, or those that are already offering returnships, need to ensure they are offering fair opportunities and pay to those taking part.”

Katerina Rudiger, chief community officer at the CIPD, said: “Parents and carers returning to the labour market after a break can struggle with a number of issues including lack of confidence and identifying their skills, as well as lack of flexible jobs and employer perceptions.” 

Rudiger added that more needed to be done to make returnships effective. “Many people who these programmes are trying to target have dropped out of the labour market and are not even looking for work, so this needs an active outreach policy,” she said. 

In the March budget, chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the government would be setting aside £5m for returnships to help women following a career break – news that received mixed reactions.

While Emma Codd, managing partner for talent at consultancy firm Deloitte, welcomed the move as a “win win” for women and business, Sam Smethers, CEO of women’s rights charity The Fawcett Society, told People Management at the time the financial boost was a “modest sum” compared to the scale of the problem.