Returning civil servants to receive bespoke training after career break

Return to work scheme intended to address gender pay gap, which increases sharply for women in their 40s

Returners programme aims to make it 'routine for women to go back to the workplace' after taking time out to have a family. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA

By Tamsin Rutter

29 Aug 2017

The civil service is to launch a programme to give those returning to work after a career break the opportunity to refresh their skills and build professional networks.

One of four public sector schemes being developed by the Government Equalities Office, the pilot programme will offer paid placements of up to six months with bespoke learning and development opportunities to 50 returning civil servants.

The career returner programmes are open to both men and women but – as part of a chunk of investment to support women announced in this year’s Budget – have a particular focus on closing the gender pay gap.


The gender pay gap jumps from less than 7% for women in their 20s to 25% for women in their 40s, according to government statistics. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that women returning to work earn 2% less for every year they’ve spent out of paid work.

Research by PwC suggests that addressing the “career break penalty” could increase annual earnings of female professionals by £4,000 on average.

Anne Milton, minister of state for apprenticeships, skills and women, said the new schemes would help make it “routine for women to go back to the workplace and get on with their careers” after taking time out to start a family.

She said: “Millions of us need to take time out from our careers, but it can be really hard to return. This is bad for the people affected, and the businesses who miss out on their talents. Women in particular find the routes back into employment closed off after taking time out to start a family.”

Milton added that the public sector should lead by example and introduce programmes to support people returning to the workplace.

The Government Equalities Office is also working with the Local Government Association to offer tailored training for 100 returning social workers; with Health Education England on a programme for 300 physiotherapists, podiatrists, dietitians and other allied health professionals; with the Department for Health to build on an existing scheme for nurses; and with the Department for Education to explore a new programme for teachers.

Civil servants, social workers and health professionals will be able to apply for the schemes later this year.

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