The belief employers don’t want to hire someone with a gap in their CV is the biggest barrier to some women returning to work, a group of MPs has been told.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on women and work calls for companies with more than 250 staff to put better programmes in place for returners.
It says existing “returnship” schemes rarely help women on lower incomes.
The MPs were examining reasons why women find difficulties in returning to work after a career break.
They cited the cost of childcare and the lack of a clear way back as key obstacles to returning to work.
Their report called for employers to take more note of the caring responsibilities of employees and to give the “sandwich generation” more help.
“Spending time at home with children or looking after elderly parents does not make women or men less capable and it should not be a deterrent when wanting to go back to work at the appropriate time”, said the committee’s co-chair, Flick Drummond.
‘Lost talent pool’
In recent years, a number of companies have started introducing schemes to support senior women returning to work after a break.
Returnship programmes may include a three to six month paid internship, mentoring and coaching to improve confidence.
Dominie Moss, who recently founded the Return Hub, which submitted evidence to the parliamentary report, believes the benefits to employers of such schemes are clear: “It’s an opportunity to repopulate the talent pipeline at mid- and senior levels. And what you get is highly engaged and highly motivated people.”
Ms Moss does have some enquiries from men, but the vast majority are from women, she says, as they are more likely to have taken time out of work to look after their family or to move abroad with a partner.
Despite these programmes being in their infancy, she says there is “significant demand” from employers for this “lost talent pool” of professional women who are looking for new positions.
The report from the parliamentary group on women and work recommended that all employers with a workforce of more than 250 people, across diverse sectors, should develop return to work policies for those coming back after an extended career break.
It also called on employers and the government to extend the geographical scope of returnship schemes, as most of them are currently based in London.