Helping Returners get Back on their Feet

Published on 12 June 2017


U Women’s Network, a NTUC U Family initiative, co-organised a Returner & Employer Networking Session with social recruiting platform Wantedly on 7 June 2017. The event sought to connect back-to work women or returners with potential employers. A total of 36 returners and eight companies participated.

The event is part of U Women’s Network’s pilot Returners Programme, which was developed after Labour Member of Parliament Desmond Choo called for a programme to leverage this latent talent pool. If recruited by a participating company under the programme, returners get a paid job trial lasting three to six months, which will include training and mentoring. If successful, they will be offered a permanent position with full salary and flexible work arrangements.

Breakout focus groups were also held with the returners at the event to understand their challenges, expectations and needs.

A Chat with the Returners…

Back-to-work mum Priyanka Agarwal, 37, has sent out some 50 job applications over the past three months to no avail.

With a Diploma in Business Administration and Finance, she had spent three years at a multinational company in the finance industry. In 2006, she decided to stay home to support her children’s growing-up years.

Now, with a full-time helper and supportive husband to take care of her daughters, aged six and 10, she is ready to re-enter the workforce again. Her situation is similar to majority of the returners who found U Women’s Network Returner & Employer Networking Session helpful.

“From resumes, all employers see are words and figures. Through this platform, they can get a sense of our energy and how we communicate. We can also understand the company better and see if we are a mutual fit. The employers I’ve met today are pro-family and empowering,” said Elin Chua, 42, a double degree holder who is starting her own business and looking for a secondary source of income to realise her dream.

“I hope employers can keep an open mind and not judge us by our age or the huge career gap. “For example, I may not have worked in an events company but I’ve helped out with a lot of events in the school that I have been volunteering for. We are still working in our own lives, just without any money. Many back-to-work women also forget to include these experiences in their resumes.”

A Chat with an Employer…

Yvon Bock, 38, is the founder and managing director of Hegen, which sells breastfeeding lifestyle products in nine markets internationally. A back-to-work woman herself, the mother of four left the workforce in 2004 to take care of her young children. She only re-entered the workforce when her father proposed that she worked part-time in his manufacturing company.

With a background in banking and finance, it was not easy for her at first. However, she eventually took up the challenge to create and design baby products, and that was when she found her calling to help working mothers around the world.

It comes as no surprise that progressive practices are integrated into the company’s policies. Parents working at Hegen are allowed time-off, flexible working hours, eldercare leave and part-time arrangements.


Encouraging women to be more open to switching industries, she said: “Be optimistic about the change in industry and just do it. There’s always room for improvement and new skills. Be willing to learn from both your seniors and juniors.”

Additionally, returners should discuss concerns and deliverables with their potential employers upfront to avoid conflicts of interest down the road. While employers should give them time to learn the ropes, she explained that returners have to give employers time to be convinced of their abilities and adjust their expectations.

With plans to expand to new markets, Yvon aims to double her team of 10 over the next two years and is looking to fill roles in marketing, communications and sales.

“It is important that the candidates’ attitude aligns to the company’s ethos. I think they need to have two elements – team spirit and empathy. We will try to understand them but they must also do their part,” she said.



NTUC This Week 11 June 2017. Article by Avelyn Ng


Tags: U Women's Network,  Returner Networking Session,  Back To Work,  Job Trial,  Flexible Work Arragement

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