Women Returners Programme

Support provided by Scottish Government

What does this involve?

The Women Returners Programme – backed by £500,000 and following on from a 2018-19 pilot scheme – will fund projects that help to address gender inequality in the workplace and build on the Scottish Government’s commitment to reduce the gender pay gap.

This programme welcomes proposals from public, private and third sector organisations or partnerships of these. The total fund value is up to £500,000 to be utilised within the current financial year and up to 31st March 2021. Projects have up to three months to deliver activity between 1 January 2021 – 31 March 2021.

There can be a number of barriers around women returning to work following an extended absence, with many experiencing a ‘motherhood penalty’ following a break for maternity leave or to care for children. Proposals are welcomed that offer valuable advice, peer support and access to training and work experience which will open up opportunities for women, especially in sectors where they are under-represented. Given the limited timescale for delivery project costs are not expected to exceed £35,000.

Many women struggle to return to work after a career break due to factors such as:

  • lack of access to flexible working to support care commitments
  • lack of confidence due to lack of up-to-date work experience
  • lack of relevant skills especially in sectors where technology has moved on at a rapid pace

As a result they can find their job choices limited to lower paid, part time work and can experience pay inequality, underemployment, job insecurity, and a lack of opportunities for development and career progression.

Am I eligible?

Eligibility includes:

  • women who have had work experience and a good level of qualifications before taking a break
  • women of any age who seek a return to the labour market following a career
  • women who have taken a break due to childcare or other caring commitments or health issues (including menopause)

There is a particular focus on supporting women who experience multiple barriers to employment. For example: 

  • older women
  • disabled women
  • lone parents
  • minority ethnic women
  • women affected by domestic abuse
  • women from rural or SIMD areas
  • female veterans/spouses of veterans

In addition:

  • women should be resident in Scotland
  • a career break should normally be of more than 6 months duration

Who is this for?

This programme welcomes proposals from public, private and third sector organisations or partnerships of these.

Applicant organisations should ideally be able to demonstrate: 

  • experience of delivering employability and work experience type activity to women
  • knowledge of current employability provision available to unemployed women in Scotland
  • Knowledge of equality and intersectional issues relating to gender
  • knowledge of the barriers faced by women returners and support required
  • good links/access to employers who can provide suitable work experience placements
  • understanding of the benefits of adopting fair work practices and the principles within the Fair Work Framework
  • An understanding of the disproportionate impact the pandemic has on women at an intersectional basis

Exclusions: The following types of proposals are NOT ELIGIBLE to apply to the Returners Fund:

  • applications from individuals
  • proposals which are already being funded through other Scottish Government programmes
  • proposals which relate solely to capital projects
  • proposals that solely pay for one person’s wage
  • applications that duplicate statutory or other provision already available

Important information

The total fund value is up to £500,000 to be utilised within the current financial year and up to 31st March 2021.

Projects have up to three months to deliver activity between 1 January 2021 – 31 March 2021.

Given the limited timescale for delivery project costs are not expected to exceed £35,000.

Project Applicants should justify the level of funding requested based on the number of clients benefiting from the project and the cost of delivery versus outcomes achieved.

Next steps

Visit the Employability in Scotland website to learn more, download guidance and apply. 

Support provided by Scottish Government

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