Career Advice For Me

Corporate giants championing “returnships”

A lot can happen in a decade. Flip phones, once the must-have gadget, aren’t cool anymore and everyone’s glued to these smartphones things – at home, on the train and in the workplace. Oh, and if you need anything, you can order a taxi, or lunch just by clicking on app. So, what do you mean you don’t know how to use Twitter?

It can be a lot to take in – especially when you’ve had a break from the workplace. With digital transformation and the recession both taking place when Adriana Ennab left the banking industry, on her first day back to work after a 16-year-break at 52, she wanted to leave.

However, three years later and Ennab, now Director of Public Policy at Credit Suisse, is glad she stuck her returnship out –  and she’s just one of the growing number of women returning to work following an extended career break.

“People said to me: ‘You are crazy. Banking has changed so much. You don’t know enough.’ But I love being in this world again,’ she says.

Three in five professional women, who have taken a care-related career break, will move into a lower skilled or lower paid role than their previous job – reducing their earnings by up to a third, according to research from PwC. In fact, the true cost of the challenges returning to the workplace has, sets the UK back an estimated £1.7billion-a-year in lost economic output.

Despite this, only a small percentage of companies offer returnships – placements that range from six weeks to six months, where returners come in at a paid, high level position following a minimum of two years out of work.

However, many of the larger banks, construction companies such as Skanska and Balfour Beatty, and telecoms giants Vodafone and O2, are championing returnships. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results are good.

According to Credit Suisse, around 12 to 15 women are accepted onto each ten-week programme and between 50 to 80% are retained at the end – The Daily Mail reports.

The Government has even pledged £5 million for returnships, with Prime Minister Theresa May recently stating: “More often than not, it is women who give up their careers to devote themselves to motherhood, only to find the route back into employment closed off — the doors shut to them. This isn’t right, it isn’t fair, and it doesn’t make economic sense.”

According to the investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown, who analysed figures from the Office for National Statistics, the number of women working past the age of 70 has doubled in four years.

Lisa Unwin, Founder of She’s Back, a recruitment and support organisation for women returning to work, still thinks work needs to be done. “There is a lot of trumpeting of returnship programmes,” she says, “but numbers are still small and focused on mid- to senior-level roles.

She concluded: “My frustration with companies that love to bang on about them is that for every five women they take back on a returnship programme, they are probably losing 50 because they are refusing their requests for flexible working.”

Article on HR Grapevine