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'Returnships' to be introduced to help women get back into the workforce

Minster Regina Doherty said women often lack the “confidence and belief in themselves” to return to work after a long period of time.

The minister has already consulted with some blue chip multinational companies about engaging in a pilot programme for women.
The minister has already consulted with some blue chip multinational companies about engaging in a pilot programme for women.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT WANTS to make it easier for women to re-enter the workplace with the introduction of “returnships”.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty raised the issue of women leaving the workforce to raise families, or care for loved ones, during her Budget press conference this week.

She said women that have taken time out of their careers oftentimes have “bucketloads of experience”. The minister said sometimes the only thing they lack is the “confidence and belief in themselves” to return to work after a long period of time.

Returnships are sometimes described as internships for those who have taken a prolonged period of time off work in the middle of their career.

They have risen in popularity in the US and parts of Europe, though some companies here in Ireland such as JP Morgan, Amazon and Accenture all offer returnship programmes already.

While the schemes can vary depending on where someone works, those that take part in the programmes, mainly women, are paid for their work and also get training and take part in mentoring for a number of weeks or months.

While a job isn’t guaranteed it often leads to permanent work.

Officials in the department are understood to have already started the groundwork with the new programme.

Doherty is believed to be keen to hit the ground running with her plans, with an aim to launch early in the new year.

Companies 

The minister has already consulted with some blue chip multinational companies about engaging in a pilot programme for women.

The schemes are believed to be popular with technology companies in particular, and with an array of firms here, it is hoped many will sign up for the programme.

A department source said the minister wants to engage with women who have been inactive in the workforce for family reasons as they are presently an unused potential for the labour market, particularly due to the country hitting full employment and with the number of vacant positions across many sectors.

A number of European countries have introduced similar schemes targeted at helping individuals, primarily women, to return to work after a long, family related absence from the labour market.
It is understood that the minister is taking inspiration from the UK’s Returner Programme.

Returner programmes were introduced in the UK in 2014, with the scheme primarily focussed on financial services, consulting and STEM.

In March 2018 the UK Government Equities Office together with Women Returners (a consulting, coaching and networking organisation) and Timewise (a social consultancy) produced best practice guidance for employers taking on returners to the workforce.

The National Women’s Council has said the increased economic participation of women should be a core objective of government policy adding that it is a national objective to increase women’s economic participation and Irish competitiveness.

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