Returner Programme Dictionary

Various different types of returner programme have developed in recent years. To clarify the differences, here’s our official Women Returners Programme Dictionary. At Women Returners, we partner with organisations to offer three types of returner programme: returnships, supported hiring programmes, returner events and any combination. Our current partnership programmes are listed here.

Returner Programme

The generic term for an initiative targeted specifically at returning professionals, including returnships, supported hiring programmes, returner events, return-to-work fellowships and returner training programmes. 


A higher-level professionally-paid internship for returning professionals. A returnship is a short-term contract (usually for 3-6 months), with a strong possibility but not a guarantee of an on-going role at the end of the programme. With most returnships, particularly with larger organisations, support in the form of mentoring/training/coaching is provided. Returnships are solely targeted at people who have taken a long career break. Most returnships occur annually with a cohort, however they may be ‘rolling returnships’ with rolling applications through the year. 

Supported Hiring**

A recruitment process by which a returner is hired into a permanent position and provided with returner coaching support through the transition. Supported hiring roles are usually open to any applicants, however applications are welcomed from people who have taken a long career break. Supported hiring for multiple roles can either be as a programme starting on a fixed start date, cohort basis or as part of ongoing recruitment on a rolling application basis. Note: supported hiring can also be offered for one-off roles.

Returner Event

An event for organisations to engage, support and attract returning professionals. A Returner Conference is a large-scale form of returner event for a large audience over one or two days. Returner events can also be run for a smaller more targeted audience and/or with a shorter format.

Return-to-Work Fellowship

A funded fellowship for returners to research careers, usually in STEM fields. Fellowships are typically for 1-3 years. One longstanding example is the Daphne Jackson Fellowship.

Returner Training Programme

A form of returner programme where people who have taken a long break are retrained into a new or related field or reskilled to return to practice in their previous field. This can be combined with an on-going role at the end of the training or be stand-alone.

Some Returner Programmes include:
Returner Coaching Programme

A tailored form of coaching to support people returning to work after a career break, ideally addressing both the psychological and the practical challenges, to enable them to be more satisfied and more productive. Offered as part of some returnships and supported hiring programmes. Can be offered for individuals or in groups (e.g. Women Returners “Career Returners Coaching Programme”)

*returnship is a term created and trademarked by Goldman Sachs, 2008 (‘rolling returnship’ as a variant was created by Women Returners, 2020)

**supported hiring is a term created by Women Returners, 2015