“Away from lip service”

Mothers, fathers and single parents still have to overcome many hurdles when returning to work. Leadership coach Monika Keller from “3C Keller” and job coach Carsten Sudhoff from “Newcareer” von Rundstedt explain how companies can support parents in their new start.
A text by Christine Bachmann, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of HR Today.
“The ‘Sense of Urgency’ has not yet been reached,” states job coach Carsten Sudhoff of “Newcareer” von Rundstedt with regret. “Only when companies can no longer recruit enough skilled workers do the re-entry opportunities for mothers and fathers improve.” It is true that it is now good manners for companies to offer flexible working models, to get themselves in shape for Work 4.0 and to welcome those re-entering the workforce with open arms. But not with the vast majority: “Jobseekers cannot rely on the promises made by companies. Sudhoff explains that the fact that companies are reluctant to employ people re-entering the workforce is not due to parental responsibility, but rather to a lack of professional experience and any gaps in knowledge. However, this does not apply to all “drop-outs”: “If someone has not worked for only one to three years, there should not be any major problems.” But if someone has been away from the world of work for more than five years, it becomes difficult to get back into it. “Regardless of whether someone is single, a mother, a father or a single parent.

Opportunities, not risks

According to job coach Carsten Sudhoff, employers have a great deal of understanding for parents, show prudence and make an effort to provide honest support. In contrast, this understanding is disappearing more and more among those without children. This is evident in the workplace, in public life and in private life. “Colleagues at work are more likely to put pressure on them than managers or HR professionals,” he concludes.

Flexibility and understanding

Returning to work works if the necessary conditions are created, says Carsten Sudhoff. Fathers and mothers, but also single parents, must be clear about how they organise themselves privately before they apply. Only then does it make sense to determine where they stand professionally and to position themselves in the market. “But the career goal must also be realistic,” says Sudhoff. Not only employees, but also companies have to make efforts to help people re-enter the labour market: “Employers should ask re-entering employees, mothers, fathers or single parents much more often what they need to cope with their everyday working life. Many well-intentioned offers do not correspond to the lives of the people concerned. While some employees want to leave the office at 4 p.m. in order to continue working in the evening, others prefer an annual working time model in order to work more or less depending on the situation and to compensate for overtime. Job sharing is also a success factor in reintegration. “Well-educated women can thus take on higher-skilled jobs or management tasks that match their qualifications.” This would also benefit pension provision, as women with higher salaries can fill pension fund gaps.

“Exploiting unused talent pools”

Few companies offer re-entry programmes and thus forego valuable expertise. Evelin Bermudez, President of the association “CRN – Companies & Returnships Network”, advocates for employers to take advantage of these talent pools, especially in times of a shortage of skilled workers.

Why should employers give mothers and fathers a chance?

Evelin Bermudez: It is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to recruit sufficiently qualified employees. SMEs are particularly affected by this. This is a problem that is being exacerbated by demographic developments. However, employers can counter this development by tapping the labour potential of people returning to work. The systematic reintegration of these women and men is a benefit for the economy, the companies and the individuals.

How do you support employers?

The biggest hurdles are the negative perception of career gaps, the lack of trust in employees and the lack of flexible working options. That’s why we want to raise employers’ awareness of the value of the untapped talent pool of those re-entering the workforce: Specifically, we show the importance of flexible working models and get companies to adapt their recruitment practices. Applications from women and men with gaps in their CVs and non-linear career paths should no longer be dropped from the selection process.


At conferences, we organise informal meetings between employers and re-entrants. These serve both sides to discuss re-entry programmes, exchange information and get to know each other. We also organise re-entry fairs, conduct surveys and studies on the needs of re-entrants, their preferences and qualifications. We also initiate various campaigns. For example, a cross-company learning initiative, with which companies enable employees to return to work in an innovative way. In 2022, we will also enter into strategic alliances with various organisations that offer affordable training and retraining programmes for people returning to work.

CRN – Companies & Returnships Network” association

Despite demographic change and the shortage of skilled workers, few organisations in Switzerland use career re-entry programmes. The association “CRN – Companies & Returnships Network” was founded in 2020 from a project of the Federal Office for Gender Equality and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Its aim is to make re-entry programmes known to employers and to increase the employment chances of re-entering the workforce. Within the CRN network, employers and employer-related organisations learn from each other, form networks and benefit from various analyses or studies and find pragmatic ways to create re-entry programmes for women and men.

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