Government schemes to help civil servants, teachers, social workers and health workers get back to work after a career break have been launched.
The schemes are paid placements in the workplace which include training.
The initial schemes offer 50 places for civil servants, 100 for social workers and 300 for health professional returners.
The returner programmes are open to both genders, but are expected to particularly help women.
The places are being funded from the £5m earmarked in this year’s Budget.
The scheme could help people who have taken time out to bring up children or for other caring responsibilities.
“Millions of us need to take time out from our careers, but it can be really hard to return,” said skills minister Anne Milton.
“Women in particular find the routes back into employment closed off after taking time out to start a family.”
The programmes should make it “routine” for women to go back to the workplace and get on with their careers, and would ultimately help tackle the gender pay gap, she said.
The initial schemes are for the public sector, but the government said it was also talking to business groups on how to further boost opportunities for women returning to work.
Programmes being launched:
Civil servants: An initial returner programme for 50 returners across the UK will start this October with placements between six weeks to six months.
Social workers: A programme in three regions across England from November with placements for 100 social work returners.
Allied health professionals: a programme for 300 allied health professional returners across England, including physiotherapists, podiatrists, dietitians, and radiographers.
Teachers: The Government Equalities Office will work with the Department for Education to explore a returner programme for teachers.
Research from management consultancy PwC estimated addressing the career gap penalty could boost the UK economy by an annual £1.7bn.
For individual women, this means their annual earnings could increase by an average £4,000 a year, PwC said.
The government said the public sector schemes were also aimed at helping to tackle the gap between male and female pay, currently 18.1%.
Women who take time out of work earn around 2% less for every year spent out of paid work, according to think tank The Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Alongside the schemes, the Government Equalities Office is asking for responses from individuals and firms on how best to support people returning to work.
Source: BBC News