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How to ease candidates back into work after a career break

by Heat Recruitment

As a recruiter, you meet candidates who are at all stages of life. They may be freshly graduated, head hunted from a rival firm – or they could in fact be stepping back into the world of work after a lengthy career break.

Career breaks come in all shapes and sizes too. Whether the candidate is returning to work after having a baby, or they’ve simply been travelling for a year – the recruitment process does require special consideration and added depth to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

Here are some of the most common reasons people take a break from work and indicative advice to employers on how to make the changeover more comfortable for all parties:

Starting a family

Returning to work after maternity or paternity leave can be tricky for your employees. They’ve spent a long time bonding with their new child away from the pressures of a working environment. It can be beneficial to offer a soft welcoming, perhaps the parent can come into the office for a couple of hours prior to their actual return date. This will allow them to get to grips with any changes or alterations, so they aren’t too overloaded on the actual day.

Going above and beyond would include allowing flexible working, childcare finance or even inhouse nurseries. Of course it depends on the nature of your business, but these kinds of benefits can be huge pull for talented candidates with a family.

Travelling or a sabbatical career break

Many people traditionally chose to travel or take a sabbatical at the beginning or even later in their career. However, attitudes towards sabbaticals are changing and they are becoming more common throughout careers. Here at Heat, for example, we offer a month-long paid sabbatical for every five years of service – we understand the value of work-life balance.

Whatever the candidate has decided to do in their spare time, chances are they have grown accustom to their free time. With this in mind it can help to keep a structured day plan for them from day one. Set out clear goals and benchmarks for them to follow daily. You don’t need to micro-manage per se but allowing the candidate touchpoints will let them get a feel for their new routine.

A grievance

Of course, grievances are sensitive issues, and if a candidate has taken time off because of this reason, chances are they were highly affected by it. Reassurance is key here. You may want to sit down privately with the candidate before they begin and let them know of internal processes, specialist HR professionals they can talk to and, most importantly, let them know that if they are feeling overwhelmed it is absolutely okay to tell you about it. Fostering an open and transparent working culture is very important and will make the new employee feel welcome, safe and well considered.

Stress, illness or mental health

Today around one in four employees suffer with a mental health issue which could be directly related to stress, depression or anxiety – among other factors. The fact that this employee has chosen to re-enter the workplace may symbolise that they are ‘over it’, but it’s important to acknowledge the complexity of mental health. Ensure from the day you make the offer that the candidate is comfortable with the workàload and make them aware of any mental health-related initiatives that you run internally.

At Heat we offer duvet days to employees that require short-notice days off, as well as sending around a weekly wellbeing newsletter. We find that initiating this conversation amongst our staff improves understanding, sensitivity and openness.

If a candidate has been away because of a physical illness, it goes without saying to make sure that the office is accessible, and that processes are in place to check on the employee to ensure they aren’t working above and beyond their current capacity. It can be helpful to voice to your staff your understanding of doctor’s appointments or health checks. Many employees can feel uncomfortable asking for a couple of hours off for a check-up – particularly in the early stages. Above all else, your team’s health and wellness are more important than anything else – so ensure they know.


The decision to take time out to study or to upskill is an admirable one, and certainly one that you can capitalise on when hiring this employee to your organisation. Take the time to get to know what it is they have studied and show a keen interest in the skills obtained. It’s up to you to match these skills to the role in question – but the candidate themselves may have some ideas of their own. After all, it’s their first-hand knowledge.

Ensure you have future, potential training and development opportunities for this member of staff too. They are obviously keen to learn and develop so don’t deprive them of that. You may well end up losing a great member of staff in the long-term if these opportunities are not in place.

If you would like to speak to us about recruitment for your company, or find out more about the services we offer please visit our employers page.

Employer Services

by Hollie Thomas