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Blog  »  September 2023  »  Return to Work Guidance - Blog
Sep 23

Posted by
Charlotte McArdle

Return to Work Guidance

The government has turned its attention to helping individuals who have taken a career break return to work (Returners). It has now published guidance for employers (the Guidance) and a toolkit designed to help employees returning from such a break. The toolkit includes tips for Returners on how to build confidence and negotiate salaries and flexibility, as well as providing resources for job opportunities and training.

The Guidance:

The Guidance comes when many businesses are taking steps to reassess and update their policies to align with the post-pandemic working landscape. Returners are seeking flexibility in their working patterns and the same can be said for a high proportion of the UK workforce in general. Research from LinkedIn, found that:

  • 33% of UK workers would consider leaving their job if returning to the office full-time became mandatory.
  • 52% of women had left, or were considering leaving, their jobs due to a lack of flexibility and that the current demand for remote working jobs exceeds the number available in the UK.

The Guidance focuses on those who are returning to work following a period of time away to “take on a caring responsibility” as well as those returning to work after a period of absence for other reasons, such as ill health or an earlier “retirement”.

The objective is to help individuals get back into work and to help businesses recruit from a pool of experienced people. When it comes to flexibility, the Guidance urges businesses to consider where, when and how much they need people to work. Another point is that, by hiring and supporting Returners, a business can demonstrate that it is “open to non-linear career paths” and that it “values the role that caring plays in society” – a message that can help attract and retain diverse talent.

The Guidance also notes that:

  • 90% of non-workers want flexible work
  • job adverts received 30% more applications when they were advertised as allowing flexible working (versus those that were silent on that point)

The Guidance suggests several ways employers can support Returners in returning to permanent employment. Examples of such initiatives include:

Returnships– fixed-term contracts with the potential for a permanent role at the end (which can be an effective way of facilitating a trial period that benefits both the employer and employee).

Supported hiring– permanent roles, with adjustments made to support Returners;

Return to practice– sector-based training and work experience; and

Fellowships– supported research and development projects which may also lead to a permanent role.

The Guidance emphasises the importance of businesses spreading awareness of these initiatives internally, whilst also actively supporting line managers who are bringing Returners into their team. Managers should be supported both in terms of training and knowledge-sharing to ensure that the business is taking a holistic approach.

Businesses are being encouraged to actively engage with Returners, seek their perspective and listen to feedback. Support can be provided by allocating buddies, mentors and/or coaches. Businesses should then reflect on any feedback, collect additional evidence and implement reasonable changes suggested by stakeholders.

Key takeaways

Given the increasing demand for flexibility both from Returners and other employees, businesses may benefit from implementing programmes such as those proposed in the Guidance. The evidence clearly demonstrates that the wider the variety of jobs, contract types and levels of flexibility offered by a company, the greater the talent pool from which to hire. Therefore, such initiatives should be seen as “a talent attraction strategy and not just a corporate responsibility”.


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