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The Employer Perspective: Why Hire Returners?

‘It gives us an opportunity to tap into an under-utilised talent pool – it makes business sense!’

Contributing Employers

  • Antonia Brown, Interim Head of Talent Acquisition & Development, Bank of England
  • Brian Stanislas MBE, Product Manager, Civil Service HR
  • Claire Ladwa, UK HR Director, Convex
  • Jo Nisbett, HR Director, DAC Beachcroft
  • Sona Wintle, Head of Financial Crime Operations, Fidelity International


At our annual ‘Back to your Future’ conference in October 2021, we hosted an audience of 240 professional women returners, thanks to sponsorship from 9 of our employer partners:  Amazon, Bank of England, Convex, Credit Suisse, DAC Beachcroft, Fidelity International, FDM Group, J.P. Morgan, and Moody’s. Sarah Jackson OBE, Visiting Professor at Cranfield School of Management, facilitated an insightful Employer Panel on the Rationale for Hiring Returners. Five leading returner employers talked about the tangible benefits of hiring returners, how attitudes have evolved towards candidates with career breaks, and evolving trends in terms of cross-company and global programmes.

Employer Insights

What’s the business case for returner hiring for your organisation?

  • Returners represent a wealth of untapped talent, with a huge amount of experience in the labour market.
  • They give us the opportunity to reflect the society that we serve
  • We are passionate about driving our D&I agenda. Any hiring process comes with a level of risk – a returner programme allows both the employer and the returners to take that risk in a safe environment.
  • It allows us to wade into a pool of talent, who are highly capable, highly talented and uniquely brave because they’re taking themselves out of their comfort zone to return to work after an extended career break.
  • We view our culture as our competitive advantage, and are very intentional around diversity and inclusion, particularly around our experienced talent hires. As 90% of people on a career break are women, returner programmes offer a fantastic opportunity to have real impact on our D&I agenda. As our 1st programme finished, we started thinking about when to launch our 2nd.

How are returners perceived and how have attitudes towards them evolved?

  • Hiring managers increasingly see the value of the returner group and any preconception about the risks of hiring people who have had a career break have been dispelled. We’ve had such great people coming in that they themselves are advocates for the programme.
  • We piloted the programme in one area at the start, and this has now been rolled out across an increasing number of areas due to its success and the recognition of its value.
  • There needs to be commitment from the top, and it’s important to manage expectations that returners will have a different journey. They need time and support to get up to date initially, but our experience is that even with a long career break, our returners have been a real success.
  • At the start, there were fears about them being technically out of date. Coaching support was key, both from line managers within the teams they joined and from Women Returners. Once we’d finished our 1st programme, enabling line managers and returners to share these success stories has helped to break down any preconceptions within the business.
  • The numbers speak for themselves – we’ve gone from 15 returners in 2018 to 42 returners in 2021.

What is the value of being part of a cross-company programme (where a number of organisations within the same sector come together under an umbrella returnship programme)?

  • It gave us the opportunity to expand our horizons with the UK as well as raise our visibility and profile within the women returners marketplace.
  • Cross company programmes give our returners the opportunity to build a peer group network within the sector, something which we know is so critical to women’s career progression. It’s a recipe for success.

Rolling out returner programmes globally

  • We’ve received a lot of interest from colleagues globally who want to tap into this previously untapped talent pool. With the success of UK returner programmes being evident, confidence has increased amongst line managers and returners that the programme will be a success.

If you’d like more information on our partnership consulting, promotional and coaching support to help you to design and deliver a successful returner programme, please contact Women Returners on