£1.5 million fund for returnships

A £1.5 million fund has been created to help projects whereby private sector employers assist individuals who have taken a career break and want to return to the workplace.

Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Amber Rudd, said ‘It is truly striking that nearly 90 per cent of people out of paid work because they are caring for the home or family, are women. Too often people struggle to get back into paid work after taking time out to care for others. That is a huge loss not only to those individuals but to our economy and to businesses all over the country’.

The fund forms part of the government’s strategy to address the gender pay gap, which has come to the fore in recent months with companies preparing their reports in line with the gender pay reporting legislation and the recent BBC pay scandal.

What is a returnship?

First introduced by Goldman Sachs back in 2008 in the US, returnships have slowly developed and found a place in the UK. Generally, these paid programmes last a few weeks or months. These types of programmes combine a system of training, mentoring and coaching and are generally offered to those who have been outside the world of work for over two years. The programmes focus on refreshing the individual’s knowledge, bringing their skills up to date, getting them up to speed with technology and enhancing their confidence in the workplace. All of this is with a view to them obtaining a permanent role.

Who is considered a ‘returner’?

The definition provided by the Government Equalities Office is ‘a person who left paid employment for at least a year to take on a caring responsibility and would like to return to paid work at a level commensurate with their skills and experience’.

What are the possible benefits of returnships?

Employers do need to put in time and resource in order to train and mentor these individuals, but returnships also enable employers to make the most of the talent of highly-skilled workers, who can offer a fresh perspective. It can help address skill shortages and improve diversity.

What has the government done?

In the Spring Budget, the government pledged £5 million for returnships.

Late last year, they launched a consultation, seeking employers’ views on their experiences of hiring ‘returners’. In particular, the government wanted to know what issues or difficulties employers face when they recruit or seek to recruit individuals trying to reincorporate themselves back into the world of work; what support could be offered that would make it easier for employers to hire returners and the key benefits this group of individuals offer employers.

In March 2018, the government has produced guidance which helps organisations of all sizes and sectors to create a returner programme. It has also set up the £1.5 million returner fund, which will focus on SMEs, employers outside London and projects that support returners at all skill levels.

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