Key Findings

Our CEO’s Call to Employers: Take Action to #EndTheCareerBreakPenalty

The Career Returners Indicator is our new annual research study exploring the challenges, motivations and preferences of professionals returning to their careers after long breaks.

Our 2024 research findings show that the Career Break Penalty is alive and kicking. Our returner community of talented (mainly women) professionals wanting to resume their careers after breaks for caring, health or relocation are still facing an uphill battle. They are hit by the double-whammy of widespread recruitment bias against their CV gap and a pervasive loss of professional confidence.

At Career Returners, we’ve been tackling these challenges over the last 10 years, so we know there is no quick fix for this ingrained, global problem. However we do have proven solutions. Thousands of people are thriving back in skilled roles thanks to our confidence-building return-to-work support and the returner programmes of 170 forward-thinking employers, who have partnered with us to move towards inclusive returner hiring.

This is progress to celebrate but, as the research shows, we now urgently need to accelerate the pace of change. We need a significantly larger number of employers to take action to tackle the recruitment bias against returners. In turn, they too will benefit from the wealth of skills and experience that returners bring from before and during their career breaks.

To lead the way, we’re sharing a practical action plan ’10 Steps to Become a Returner Inclusive Employer’ (below), which can be followed by employers of any size. We call on ALL employers to start the journey to returner inclusion and to join us, and our employer partners, in our mission to #EndTheCareerBreakPenalty!

Julianne Miles MBE CPsychol, CEO and Co-Founder, Career Returners

10 Steps to Become a Returner Inclusive Employer

#EndTheCareerBreakPenalty

  1. Learn about Returners. Listen to returner stories on our Career Returners Podcast. Challenge your stereotypes.
  2. Remove Screening Bias: Check that your automated or manual application process is NOT screening out candidates just because of their CV gap ( 2021 Harvard Business School research in UK/USA/Germany found 43-48% of ATS systems filter out gaps over 6 months).
  3. Reduce Advertising Bias: Make sure your job adverts are only asking for ‘current/up-to-date knowledge’ or ‘recent experience’ if this is essential.
  4. Reduce Interview Bias: For competency-based interviews, adapt your questions to not ask for ‘recent work examples’. Focus technical interviews on skills rather than knowledge. 
  5. Promote Returners as a Strong Candidate Pool: Put career returners on the radar for your recruiters and business leaders as a high-calibre and diverse talent pool. Educate on the full business case and ESG case for hiring returners.
  6. Support Returner Hires: Provide transition support for returner hires, such as training, mentoring and (if you have the budget) Career Returners Coaching to help them to rebuild confidence and more rapidly re-integrate.
  7. Provide Returner Training to Line Managers: Educate on hiring and supporting candidates returning from career breaks.
  8. Target Returner Applicants: Consider adding to job adverts ‘We welcome applications from candidates who have taken a career break’.
  9. [If larger] Run a Cohort Returner Programme: Use a proven framework to accelerate returner hiring and create a peer support network. 
  10. Champion Returner Successes. Continue to break the bias using your real-life examples of successful returner hires.

If you’d like expert advice and support on returner inclusion – or returner programme design, promotion and coaching/training support – get in touch  with us on info@careerreturners.com