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Detailed employer guidance has been published by the Equality Hub and the Government Equalities Office on helping individuals return to work.

The guidance focuses on returner programmes involving paid work, on a temporary or permanent basis, that give a supported route back to permanent employment. These programmes can be for individuals or groups of returners, who are returning from time out of work for childcare or other caring responsibilities, or for health, relocation or other reasons.

The benefits to an employer from supporting returners are pointed out and include:

  • Accessing a high-calibre talent pool of experienced and mature people;
  • Tackling skills shortages within the employer; and
  • Creating a more inclusive workplace with gender, age and cognitive diversity.

The guidance details why returners should be supported, and who they may be (noting that they can be a person of any gender returning from any type of career break). It also deals with designing and setting up a returner programme and adapting recruitment practices by enhancing and promoting flexible working policies and avoiding unnecessary requirements that might discourage returners, and advertising vacancies as being suitable for returners. It also covers engaging and onboarding returners and how to run effective recruitment campaigns and assess returned candidates fairly.

As the guidance points out, running a successful returner programme can have a positive impact on an employer's reputation, signalling its commitment to inclusivity by helping parents and carers back into the workforce. This, in turn, can help boost recruitment and retention of talent.

Flexibility has been a buzzword for employers for some time now and, unsurprisingly, the guidance notes that it is likely to be high on the list of priorities for returners, especially if they have ongoing caring commitments. Offering a variety of working patterns – part-time work, remote work, compressed hours or job sharing – will be appealing for those looking to balance their professional and personal lives.