The government is consulting on 'returning to work after time out for caring'.

What is it trying to achieve?

The government says it is committed to supporting companies to take on parents and carers returning to work after long periods of absence.

From this consultation, it wants to understand the barriers returners face; existing support; and what it can do to support employers to offer opportunities to returners.

Are 'returnships' on offer already?

A small number of businesses already offer formal 'returnships' with tailored support; and the government reports that many such programmes have been highly over-subscribed.

Undoubtedly, many more businesses offer informal support.

On 28 August 2017, the government announced new public sector returner programmes. These offer a limited number of paid work placements (including training) for UK civil servants, and social workers and health professionals in England.

What are some of the issues for returners?

Barriers are reported to include:

  • Lack of suitable jobs
  • Affordable childcare
  • Concerns about being financially worse off working
  • Partners' working conditions and workplace culture
  • Accessibility of flexible working / workplace hostility to flexible working.

Research suggests that, on returning to work, many:

  • Are paid less
  • Take on jobs below their skills and experience
  • Downgrade their careers in exchange for flexibility.

Who is a 'returner'?

For the purposes of the consultation, the government is looking at individuals who have taken a break from paid employment to care for children or other family.

It excludes those who have taken time off without leaving employment, such as those on maternity leave or long-term sickness absence.

However, in practical terms, for an employer looking to develop a policy for returners, it might make sense for this to encompass both 'new starts' and existing employees returning from extended time out.

Who does the government want to hear from?

It wants to hear the experiences of:

  1. Those who have returned to work after time out caring for children or family
  2. Those currently caring for children or family who would like to return to work
  3. Employers
  4. Organisations or individuals with knowledge of returners.

What is the government asking employers?

The questions for employers include:

  • Do you run a 'returnship' programme?
  • What issues have you faced in recruiting or employing returners?
  • What support or information would encourage you to employ this group?

How do we respond to the consultation?

The consultation closes on 22 October 2017. You can complete it online, and read more about the background to the government consultation.


Kathleen Morrison

Practice Development Lawyer