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Attracting and retaining women returners.


This checklist is an introduction for organisations seeking to develop best practice in attracting and retaining women returners. Women returners will make up a significant proportion of new entrants to the labour force over the next decade and organisations will need to develop a range of policies in order to maximise the benefits that these potential employees can bring.

Employing women returners will give you a wider pool of talent to select from, and women returners offer maturity and experience. They are also likely to offer stability and commitment, and to be highly motivated. As a result, your recruitment costs are likely to go down while your retention rates improve.

Women returners are likely to be well focused, and skilled at multitasking.

National Occupational Standards for Management and Leadership

This checklist has relevance to the following standards:

D: Working with people, unit 3


'Woman returner' is a broad term used to cover any woman returning to paid employment, whether full- or part-time, after a substantial period away from work, usually taken to care for children or elderly relatives.

Returning to work after a break remains the norm among the female workforce: the full-time, lifelong career woman with a family is the exception.

Action checklist

1. Develop a clear corporate policy

Set out a clear policy concerned with:

* the recruitment and employment of women returners

* their development and promotion.

Where possible, try to obtain examples of other organisations' policies in this area, and learn from their experiences and those of women returners in your own organisation. Emphasise that the policy is a way of meeting human resource needs and retaining specialist skills, and secure support for it at the highest management level. Communicate the policy to line managers, and define and set up the mechanisms for implementing it.

2. Map the profile of women returners in your workforce

Establish a profile of the jobs, grades and occupations of women returners within the workforce. Use this as a benchmark against which to review the progress of women returners on a yearly basis.

3. Tackle the cultural changes needed to win acceptance of women returners

There may be attitudinal barriers within the organisation to the employment of women returners. Provide training in equal opportunities if it is not already available.

4. Review working practices imaginatively

Investigate ways of introducing more flexible hours and flexible working practices to enable women returners to combine paid employment and family responsibilities: part-time; flexi-time; job share; term-time; and home working. Make flexible working practices available to all employees in order to minimise resistance.

5. Improve employees' access to childcare

Only large organisations will be able to offer subsidised childcare on-site, but you can actively help women returners to find good quality external provision. Consider sharing nursery places with other local employers (for example the local council), buying in places at private nurseries or offering childcare vouchers. Don't neglect out-of-school care for older children: could you become a partner in after-school and holiday play schemes run in conjunction with local authorities, or the voluntary sector?

6. Provide parental and caring leave

Modify existing career break schemes to take account of the needs of carers. Provide flexible leave arrangements for those with caring responsibilities for the elderly or disabled. Legislation now provides a minimum period of paid parental leave. The opportunity for employees to take longer periods of unpaid leave should be considered.

7. Provide opportunities for appropriate training

Offer the opportunity for induction training to all returners to include confidence building and skills updating. Once they are in employment, provide training which will enable women returners to develop and gain promotion. Consider family responsibilities when arranging training times. The traditional times of breakfast and twilight meetings are particularly difficult for women.

8. Examine the requirements and rules for promotion

Review age limits for recruitment and promotion. Ensure that women returners are not debarred from promotion by unnecessary rules on age, experience or hours of work. Be aware of new employment legislation requirements.

9. Consider extending maternity provision to encourage women to return

Can you provide maternity rights above the statutory minimum to encourage current employees to return after a break? Offer reasonable maternity rights with the option of a career break without loss of seniority.

10. Set up a 'keeping in touch' scheme

Enable women on maternity leave to follow developments at work. Provide a company sponsor or mentor, and arrange regular mailings with copies of in-house newsletters, magazines and other communications. Make provision for a short period of work and training during each year of absence.

Managers should avoid:

* leaving policy implementation to line managers without ensuring that it is translated into practice, rather than undermined

* neglecting the training and development needs of those returning to work after a long break: invest in skills updating and confidence building

* targeting flexible working schemes at women returners only, or you will increase cultural resistance.

Additional resources


Work life balance management practices and productivity, Nick Bloom, Toby Kretschmer and John Van Reenen

London: Centre for Economic Performance, 2006

Girlfriends in high places: how womens' networks are changing the workplace, Helen McCarthy

London: Demos, 2004

Back to work: a guide for women returners, Diana Wolfin & Susan Foreman

London: Robson Books, 2004

Work life balance: the role of the manager, Caroline Glynn, Ingrid Steinberg and Claire McCartney

Horsham: Roffey Park Institute, 2002

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at:

Internet resources

Women Returners Network

Section offering workbook and factsheets relating to returning to work


Equal Opportunities Commission

Arndale House, Arndale Centre, Manchester M4 3EQ

Tel: 0845 601 5901

Business in the Community

137 Shepherdess Walk, London N1 7RQ

Tel: 0870 600 2482

Women Returners Network

Chelmsford College, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford CM2 0JQ

Tel: 01245 263796

UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, Listerhills Park of Science and Commerce

40-42 Campus Road, Bradford, BD7 1HR

Tel: 01274 436485
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Title Annotation:Checklist 095
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Human Resources, Training and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Previous Article:Introducing a whistleblowing policy.
Next Article:Setting up childcare policies.

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