Why returners programmes are good for business

In a fast-changing and innovative sector like tech, where new technologies are transforming work practices every day, the prospect of returning to work can be daunting. Returners programmes shift workplace perceptions surrounding people's right to return to work and challenge the unconscious stigma around career breaks.

Returners programmes provide a vital route for individuals back to work, providing training and support to help overcome barriers. These programmes can provide companies with new sources of talent, helping to find experienced individuals who may have been missed with conventional recruitment methods. By shining a light on returners, we can attract and retain more experienced and technically skilled people, easing the shortage of diverse talent seen in the industry.

There are currently 2.1 million people out of the labour market caring for their home or family members, 89% of whom are women. Many of them have a wealth of skills, experience and talent. Despite this, they often struggle to get back into jobs at the right level. This is a huge loss for employers, the economy and those individuals.

report by PWC showed that the UK is missing out on £1.7bn in economic benefits by failing to address what they call the "career break penalty" – the lower pay and lower skilled positions women accept after returning from a career break.

techUK has found that, among our members, the key driver for implementing a returner’s programme is to find new sources of talent, helping businesses to overcome the skills gap, and to improve gender diversity. The Tech Talent Charter—a commitment by organisations to a set of undertakings that aim to deliver greater diversity in the tech workforce of the UK, one that better reflects the make-up of the population—has found that of the 13% of signatories in 2019 that have active retraining and/or returners programmes, 75% have above the average number of women in tech roles, suggesting a correlation between these types of programs and improved diversity. 

Government Equalities Office: Why creating a returner programme makes business sense

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The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that women who take time out of work earn less when they return, receiving around 2% less for every year spent out of paid work. Providing the platform for women to return, and ensuring a structured programme to develop and improve their skills can prevent this wage reduction. This in turn helps to ensure companies reduce their gender pay gap going forward, important given the introduction of the gender pay reporting legislation. Providing a returners programme can significantly improve the brand image of the organisation, including amongst employees, particularly younger employees who are often more aware of the social impact of companies, helping to attract and retain talent.