Â£5 million pledged to help people get back to work after career breaks
New programmes are being launched to help teachers, social workers, health professionals and civil servants get back to work after career breaks.
The schemes, funded from £5 million earmarked in this year's Budget, will offer training and support to help "returners" refresh their skills, as part of the Government's drive to close the gender pay gap.
Many of those taking advantage of the scheme are likely to be women who have taken time out of the workplace to bring up their children, but the programme is open to both genders and could benefit people who have taken a career break for other caring responsibilities.
Skills minister Anne Milton said: "We want to help people who are looking to get into work, which is why we are going to do more to help people get back into work after a career break.
"Millions of us need to take time out from our careers, but it can be really hard to return. This is bad for the people affected, and the businesses who miss out on their talents. Women in particular find the routes back into employment closed off after taking time out to start a family.
"These returner programmes will make it routine for women to go back to the workplace and get on with their careers. It ultimately should also help us to tackle the gender pay gap. I think it's important that the public sector leads by example and introduces programmes to support people returning to the workplace."
Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that women who take time out of work earn around 2% less when they return for every year spent out of paid work.
According to research by PwC, addressing the career break penalty could provide a £1.7 billion boost to the UK's annual economic output, increasing the annual earnings of female professionals by an average of £4,000.
Official figures put the gender pay gap at a record low of 18.1%. The disparity is 7% for women in their twenties but widens to 25% for those in their forties. By next April, the Government is requiring all employers with 250 or more staff to report their gender pay gap and bonus gap.
The chair of the Local Government Association's resources board, Claire Kober, said: "We are pleased that the Government has recognised the importance of supporting the return of good experienced social workers back into the profession."
And Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, director of nursing at Health Education England said: "Clinicians of all backgrounds returning to practice have a vital role to play in our NHS, as they tend to be more experienced and highly skilled."