Supporting employees after a career break

Posted in Employers

Posted by Joanne Caine
Published on 17 March, 2022

Having a career break can happen for a multitude of reasons, from raising children, to opting to travel for an extended period, take on care responsibilities of loved ones, or recovering from mental or physical illness. Every year, it is expected that around 90,000 working professionals will take a career break.

Over the past two years, we have also seen a large number of UK workers take a forced career break, either through furlough or redundancy, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Whatever the cause for an extended career break, returning to the workplace after a long-term hiatus can be a daunting prospect. Some individuals struggle with feelings of overwhelm or lack of confidence and will need to seek career advice from their employers or recruitment agencies near them to regain the self-assurance they need to re-enter the workplace seamlessly.  

If you are an employer looking to support individuals returning to work after an extended career break, here are three key policies and processes to consider… 

Consider investing in a ‘returnship’ scheme 

Coined by Goldman Sachs nearly two decades ago in 2008, the returnship is a specifically designed 10-week paid program which gives those who have had a career break the training and upskilling necessary to ease back into the workplace. Following the success seen by Goldman Sachs, 160 other companies have gone on to now implement this program for themselves, including the likes of Amazon and PayPal.  

Not only does a returnship support current employees back into the working environment, but it also gives employers a low-risk way of assessing new employees who may have taken time out.  

For those who are apprehensive about restarting their careers, this can be the perfect way to build upon existing skills, create new ones and ultimately find a job that they feel comfortable in. 

Tackle potential internal bias 

Unconscious bias continues to wreak havoc in the working world, placing a huge group of world-class talent at risk of being overlooked for roles they are qualified to undertake.

Back in 2015, the Guardian released a story which showcased how women especially are regularly hit with the ‘triple whammy’ of unconscious bias. It highlighted how employers are more likely to choose a candidate with less experience, but a more up to date CV, in comparison to a mother who had taken time out. Unfortunately, the situation hasn’t improved, and, in some cases, the pandemic has worsened it. 

And it isn’t just women who face a barrage of bias in the workplace when it comes to returning to work. We know that, especially in this day and age, more retired professionals are opting to re-enter the workplace. However, they face an onslaught of ageism bias which puts barriers in the way of their re-entrance into the workplace.  

Employers must work hard to tackle such biases if they are to fully support and empower those who have opted to have a career break. Whether it’s through blind hiring or a standardised recruitment process, there are countless ways in which hiring managers can do more to tackle implicit and explicit bias.  

Ensure flexible working is available 

As a result of the pandemic, flexible working has become one the most desired benefits. With the strain that the last two years has put workers under, the importance of maintaining a good work/life balance has become imperative.  

This is a huge breakthrough, especially for career returners. Whether it’s being able to fit their reintegration around their life, making the transition easier to manage, or having the ability to work fewer hours to begin with to avoid being overwhelmed, individual options should be explored.

Of course, there won’t be a one-size-fits-all model here, and it is very much down to the needs of the person.  

Taking career breaks is something that many within an organisation may do over their career. However, it shouldn’t become a barrier for future progression. It’s down to employers to foster an environment that is supportive of career returners and nurtures their needs.  

If you are a career returner who needs support to find a new job, or an employer who wants to discuss the best way to support a team member after a career breaktalk to one of our friendly advisers.  



Managing Director

I joined Cathedral Appointments in 1998 to cover a maternity leave and never left. I now own the business and love my job. I've a great team of consultants who work with me in ensuring that Cathedral Appointments provide an excellent service to candidates and clients alike.

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Supporting employees after a career break

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