Belfast Telegraph

Companies missing out on benefits of senior staff returning to work


By Justin Rush of Abacus Professional Recruitment

Northern Ireland companies may be missing out on the significant economic benefits in returning former senior professionals into the workplace who have taken a career break.

The formal introduction of 'returnships' is one of the latest recruitment trends adopted by leading blue-chip companies in the UK. The higher-level internships act as a bridge back to senior roles for experienced professionals who have taken an extended time off work due to family commitments for example.

Returnships can be contracts of 3-12 months mainly aimed at women returners who are former legal, accountancy, IT and financial services professionals. It allows the individuals to get back into work, refresh their skills and become better equipped to gain a future permanent role.

Employers open to such initiatives are able to access an untapped pool of experienced talent that many are overlooking, and don't forget this is a group eager to impress. In practice, the returner normally takes little time to get back up to speed, many quote 'it's like falling off a log' and usually only require a 'work buddy' for basic admin questions.

Successful initiatives such as PwC's 'Back to Business' scheme and EY's 'Reconnect Programme' demonstrate how both the company and returning individuals benefit from the dedicated recruitment programme.

The benefits of returnships can be huge, not just for the business, but for the economy in general. It is estimated that returning professionals to work could lead to a £1.7bn increase in UK economic output, based their extra earnings and increased spending power (PwC 2016). As a professional recruitment company which represents over 70% of the top 100 companies and all large scale foreign direct investments organisations in Northern Ireland, Abacus knows that the appointment, and most importantly, the retention, of middle-level and senior skilled and experienced professionals is always in demand.

However, in reality, often HR managers may raise eyebrows at seeing a lengthy gap in employment in a potential appointee.

In our experience, this gap is not as relevant to the recruitment selection process as many may think, particularly when it is considered what vital skills returners may bring to businesses.

These professionals, who may have needed a career break to raise their family, care for a parent or due to health reasons, invariably take with them years of senior experience. They have the skills and experience that recruitment companies like ourselves are tasked to provide in candidates every day, so they certainly should not be overlooked.

The Women Returners Network, supporting women in the workplace, estimated that currently half a million of women professionals currently taking a career break in the UK are likely to come back into the workforce. Of those who do, unfortunately three in five will move into a lower skilled or lower paid role than the job they had before, reducing their earnings by up to a third. Returnships have the ability to address this issue.

We know that not every business is large enough to introduce its own returners initiative, but the underlying principle is something that today's forward-thinking businesses should be considering to find the right appointment for its business needs.

As recruiters of high calibre professionals from the legal, accountancy, IT and financial services sectors, it is our job at Abacus to attract the right level of talent for our clients' workforce as well as keeping clients up to date with new recruitment trends.

In today's increasingly diverse world of employment, building a stable workforce to drive business forward is a business imperative. At Abacus, we have implemented this strategy with members of our own senior team joining the recruitment sector following career breaks in various professions - and we can personally verify that it is a tremendous success.

  • Justin Rush is joint director of Abacus Professional Recruitment based in Belfast, Dublin and London

Belfast Telegraph

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