Spring Budget 2017: £5m fund to boost return to work after career breaks

The Chancellor has made a commitment to encourage retraining after long career breaks with £5m of new funding to identify how best to increase the number of returnships offering people who have taken lengthy career breaks a clear route back to employment

Philip Hammond said the government is going to work with business groups and public sector organisations to explore how to get employees back into the workplace after time off for childcare responsibilities or other reasons.

The move is part of plans to provide individuals with opportunities to retrain and upskill at all points in their life, and to develop skills at the highest level which will see the government spend up to £40m by 2018-19 to test different approaches.

Melanie Richards, KPMG's vice chair, said: ‘It is especially heartening to see the government choose International Women’s Day to pledge its support for an initiative that we believe can deliver real change.

‘In the UK alone, we possess a huge pool of experienced female talent standing ready to return to work, and it is great to see our government take the lead in encouraging more businesses to engage with them.’

KPMG research estimates that globally there are more than 96 million skilled women aged between 30 and 54 currently on a career break, 55m of whom are already at middle manager level or above.

Richards said the next stage is for businesses to follow the lead and launch their own schemes to support the new government initiative.

‘Following the launch of the KPMG return to work scheme last year, the women returners who have joined us have brought enthusiasm, decades of experience and a welcome fresh perspective on how we do business and bring value to our clients.

‘This is an untapped resource of talented, high calibre individuals, who are motivated to return to work.

‘For larger businesses, schemes such as ours can deliver real competitive advantage. For smaller firms, simply taking a moment to consider someone who has a gap in their CV could mean employing a talented, experienced returner and reaping the benefits for your business.’

Laura Hinton, head of people at PwC,  also described returnships as a ‘win-win for everyone involved’, saying the firm’s research suggested two-thirds of professional women go into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles when they return to work after a career break.

‘Returnships are a great way to break down the career break penalty and give women the springboard needed to get back into the workplace. If we can get more women back into work the UK economy could see a £1.7bn boost, plus women will get higher earnings and businesses will benefit from more diverse teams,’ Hinton said.

Jane Goldsmith, EY’s financial services talent partner, said returnships would provide an effective bridge back into the workplace.

’We’ve seen this in our own business. Our EY reconnect programme provides a professional, paid internship for experienced individuals who are re-starting their careers after an extended career break.

‘The feedback from our pilot programme has been really positive, both from participants and the business. It’s helped us tap into a talent pool of highly experienced individuals. Providing further support to business, to explore these career routes, is a welcome step,’ she said.

Pat Sweet |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2010-2021]

Pat Sweet was the former online reporter at Accountancy Daily and contributor to the monthly Accountancy magazine, pub...

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