Career Breaks: How employers can support work returners

20 June 2019

Both men and women take career breaks for various reasons. Whether it be to travel the world, start a family, or take care of an elderly parent, career breaks are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. These days, employers tend to offer more generous parental leave policies and other family-related benefits to help workers to better manage their work-life balance.


So while a number of employers are providing opportunities for their workers to take some personal time off, there’s now the concern of what should happen when these employees return to work. Many employers are apprehensive about hiring “work returners” because they feel like they no longer have the necessary skills. However, in reality, employers can also benefit from the experience and skills that employees gain while away.


Rather than viewing work returners in a negative light, employers should embrace the opportunity to take on employees that are able to bring a new and fresh perspective into the organization. Here are some of the best ways that employers can support work returners.


Flexible work policies

As obvious as it may seem, being open to allowing flexible work policies is one of the best ways to support employees who are returning from a career break - they often have other demands on their time (perhaps children) - which makes these policies particularly important.


Various studies have found that women returning to the workplace regard the freedom to manage their own time as the most important factor. With this in mind, it’s likely that employers will only attract the best talent if they’re open to the idea of flexible working policies.


Consider the concept of job-sharing

Job-sharing allows employees to spend more time at home by sharing their work responsibilities with a coworker. Basically, this involves hiring two or more people for the same job on a part-time basis. They then work together to complete the full responsibilities of the role.


Job-sharing is especially attractive to new parents and can be a great way to help them to transition back into a full-time role after returning from parental leave. It can also be very effective for those who are returning from a personal sabbatical. Currently, job-sharing isn’t a very popular practice, but it’s expected to become increasingly common over the next few years.


Internships for returning professionals

Several companies are attempting to engage and work with returning professionals by offering mid-career internships that are targeted at those who have been out of the workforce for over two years. They typically involve a skills training or professional development aspect. Usually, these employees will work on a special project or take on the job duties of a permanent employee.


This is a great way to fill any gaps that there may be in the employees skills and help them to re-enter the workplace. Often times it only takes a few weeks, or maybe a few months for employees to get back into the swing of things. Just a few refresher courses and filling them in on new developments, and they’re good to know.


Employee support groups

Employee support groups could be used within the company as a whole. But they can be especially beneficial for those who are returning from a career break. With many organizations becoming increasingly open about allowing for sabbaticals and implementing parental leave policies, there are likely to be a group of people who have returned to the workplace after taking a break.


It’s important to give these employees a place to talk about their experiences and any concerns that they may have. They could be assigned a mentor who will address any questions they have, challenges they may be facing, or can give them some sound advice.


Provide childcare support

This is a big one. Childcare services are becoming increasingly expensive, which is why many professionals consider financial support for childcare to be very important. These days, it’s often more economical for one parent to stay at home and look after their children because of how costly childcare has become.


This is why an increasing number of employers are starting to build a childcare support aspect into employee's salaries. It also means that employees are able to work to their full potential without having to worry about their children. You want your employees to know that you care about their personal lives and offer as much support as you can to make their lives a little easier.


Making it easier for highly skilled workers to return to the workplace following a career break offers an opportunity for employers to hire dedicated and experienced employees who can bring a new and fresh perspective to the business.

Posted by: Edit Ford