Returnships initiatives are beneficial for both organisations and employees returning to work after taking a break in their career, but their success is hindered by lack of awareness

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Returnships are high-level internships which allow professionals looking for a new career path to return to work after a break in their career.

By offering opportunities to returning mums, returnships provide a low-risk opportunity to assess a potential employee’s suitability for a permanent role. As these positions are often paid it allows professionals the opportunity to return to the workforce without taking a financial hit. This is usually a concern for mothers returning from maternity leave, as Women Returners Research by PwC suggested that there is both a personal and societal cost to not encouraging women back to work. Of the 550,000 professional women who took part in the survey, 280,00 stated they would be willing to work below their potential pay band when they returned to work.

Speaking of the advantages it brought to her personally, Clare McIntosh, Head of O2 Drive Insurance, and mother of three, told totaljobs: “When I first came across returnships I was initially surprised as to why more companies weren’t offering them. For me, a returnship sounded ideal as it offered a test drive into working life for a set period of time, so if I couldn’t make the balance work, there wasn’t any pressure. I could move on with nothing lost, but with my skills refreshed.”

“I’d fully recommend returnships to others, however for it to be really successful I’d say it needs to be backed by an employer who encourages flexible working, like O2. The scheme enabled myself and other returners to re-build our confidence back into the work place, whilst also providing a network to tap into to talk about issues we all had in common. Since the programme I haven’t looked back since.”

Despite the benefits that returnships offer to both the employer and employee, 95% of employers do not currently offer a returnship programme, due to lack of awareness. After hearing about the returnships, 1 in 5 employers believed they would offer such a programme with 69% stating that they would do so if the programme was incentivised by the government, as per the Apprenticeship Levy. Although it could be argued that the programme would be just as under-utilised as the apprenticeship levy.

For professionals who struggle to find a full-time job after a break in their career, this is particularly advantageous. Half o the employees who completed such a programme did so after struggling to find work and a further 38% said the programme helped to ease them back into a working environment. 16% of respondents did not feel confident enough to return immediately to a traditional full time role, so this suited them better.

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