Returner Programme Dictionary

Various different types of returner programme have developed in recent years. To clarify the differences, here’s our official Career Returners Programme Dictionary. At Career Returners, we partner with organisations to offer returnships, supported hiring programmes and jobs, returner (re)training programmes and any combination. Our current partnership programmes are listed here.

Returner Programme

The generic term for an initiative targeted specifically at returning professionals, which provides a supported route back to work. This includes returnships, supported hiring programmes, return-to-work fellowships and returner training programmes. 


A professional-level 3-6 month paid placement, specifically targeted at professionals who have taken an extended career break (usually of at least 18 months or 2 years). There is an intent to hire at the end of the placement, provided the programme is successful for both sides. The aim is for at least 80% of participants to gain ongoing roles. With most returnships, particularly with larger organisations, support in the form of mentoring/training/coaching is provided. Most returnships occur annually with a cohort, however they may be ‘rolling returnships’ with rolling applications through the year. Most returnships are with one employer, however there are some sector-based cross-company returnships.

Supported Hiring**

A recruitment process by which a returner is hired into a permanent position and provided with returner coaching support through the transition. A Supported Hiring programme involves recruiting for multiple (often ringfenced) roles either starting on a fixed start date, cohort basis or as part of ongoing recruitment on a rolling application basis. Supported Hiring Jobs are ad-hoc roles usually open to any applicants, however applications are welcomed from people who have taken a long career break. 

Return-to-Work Fellowship

A funded fellowship for returners to research careers, usually in STEM fields. Fellowships are typically for 1-3 years. One longstanding example is the Daphne Jackson Fellowship.

Returner Training Programme (including Return to Practice Programme)

A form of returner programme where people who have taken a long break are retrained into a new or related field or reskilled to return to practice in their previous field. This can be combined with an on-going role at the end of the training or be stand-alone. Return to Practice programmes are typically in the public sector, for areas such as nursing and social work.


Returner Event

Some returner programmes include a Launch Event or Insight Event for organisations to engage, support and attract returning professionals. The Women Returners Conference is a large-scale form of returner event, with support workshops, networking and employer partner sponsors attending.

Returner Coaching Programme

A tailored form of coaching to support people returning to work after a career break, ideally addressing both the psychological and the practical challenges, to enable them to be more satisfied and more productive. Offered as part of some returnships and supported hiring programmes. Can be offered for individuals or in groups (e.g.  our Career Returners Coaching Programme)

*returnship is a term created and trademarked by Goldman Sachs, 2008 (‘rolling returnship’ as a variant was created by Women Returners, 2020)

**supported hiring is a term created by Career Returners in 2015