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NTUC launches returner programme to aid PMETs get back to work

Early this year, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) mooted the concept of a “returnship programme” as part of its recommendations for Singapore Budget 2017. The concept recognises economically inactive PMETs - also known as the returners- as a latent talent pool that can help to meet current and future manpower demand and aims to facilitate their re-entry back to the workforce.

NTUC U Family has recently kickstarted its pilot phase of the Returners Programme with an employer-returner networking event held on 7 June 2017.

A focus group discussion was held during the event, where more than 50 returners shared their interest to take up work trials as a means to re-integrate into the workforce and highlighted that wage support or training allowances should be offered during such work trials.

At the NTUC U Family Returner-Employer Connect event yesterday (27 July), U Family has launched the Returner Work Trial - a key feature of the Returners Programme. The scheme provides employment opportunities for local PMET returners who have been out of work for at least two years to ease back into employment and for employers to tap on this latent talent pool.

With the work trial, employers can assess the returner’s fit for the job before offering permanent position or a contract position of 12 months and above. Additionally, returners can plug gaps in their curriculum vitae and refresh the relevancy in their skillsets.

With the duration capped at 6 months, employers will offer structured on-the-job training to the returner/(s) and are strongly encouraged to offer options for flexible work arrangements during the work trial period (e.g. telecommuting) and/or upon permanent placement. Not only that, employers are strongly urged to offer a permanent position or a contract position of 12 months and above to returner/(s) at the end of the Work Trial should the returner be deemed suitable.


As for returners, they will receive a minimum training allowance of $2,500 per month during the trial period. This training allowance is co-contributed by Workforce Singapore and the employer as follows for the duration of the Work Trial:

  • Workforce Singapore: $1,500 per month
  • Employer: Minimum of $1,000 per month
As an added incentive for employers, an additional one-off retention bonus of $3,000 is given to any employer who employs and retains a returner, in a permanent position or a contract position of 12 months or above, for at least 3 continuous months after the completion of the work trial.

This retention bonus will be given to the employer at the 9th month mark after the commencement of the Work Trial, regardless of the time the returner was placed.

Desmond Choo, NTUC Champion for Women and Family, shared: “The world of work is changing at a greater speed than ever before. At the same time, PMETs who took a break from their careers just to provide their undivided attention to family and personal matters should be recognised by society and employers alike. The talent in this pool is immense. Much more can be done to value the contributions and sacrifices made by these professionals, so that they can make a seamless transition back to the workforce.”

“With the Returner work trial, we hope we have opened the door for these returners to reignite their careers. We look forward to working with them, and supporting them via the Returners Programme as well as other initiatives that the Labour Movement offers,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Tan Choon Shian, chief executive of Workforce Singapore said: “Workforce Singapore is pleased to support the Returner work trial scheme. It complements the Government’s push towards a more inclusive workforce by extending work opportunities to more back-to-work individuals and helping them adapt to changing job demands through the Adapt and Grow Initiative.”

ALSO READ: NTUC launches PIVOT programme for job seekers in transition

Beyond the Returner Work Trial, the Returners Programme provides holistic support to prepare returners to re-enter the workforce and help employers in their journey towards becoming more inclusive and supportive of working parents. For instance:

Refreshing of Skills

  • Returners will receive training on critical skills (e.g. cover letters and resumes crafting, professional branding, social media profiling, etc) that enable them to succeed in their job search.
  • Partnering content experts to deliver bridging courses that will bring returners up to speed on current skills and/or knowledge required for specific professions such as human resources and accountancy.
Building of Networks
  • Returner-Employer Connect networking events will provide opportunities for returners to meet potential employers who are looking to hire returners and expand their network.
  • Mentoring and peer-to-peer support for returners to help them reconnect professionally and personally.
Applications for the Returner Work Trial will start on 1 September 2017. In the meantime, employers and returners keen to participate in the Work Trial or Returners Programme, can contact NTUC U Family at returners@ntuc.org.sg.

Lead Photo / 123RF

Table / NTUC U Family

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