Should You Hire Returners as Contract Employees or Direct Employees?

Hiring individuals who have taken a career break requires a unique sourcing and screening process. But once you find a returner who is a fit for a role, should you hire them as a direct/permanent employee, or is it better to hire them as contractor/contingent workers?  

We see a variety of implementation strategies when it comes to engaging and hiring returners for a returnship program. And they each have their own benefits. These models include:   


Hire the cohort of returners as contingent workers on the company’s, or a staffing provider’s, payroll for the duration of the returnship. Then, after the returnship is complete, convert some, or all, of the returners to direct/permanent status based on their performance and desire to continue working for the company.   

Benefit: This approach allows the company as well as the Returner to see if there is a good fit before committing to a full-time role. The standard returnship program is about 16-weeks so that is usually the time frame before there is a discussion about converting to a direct employee. Although, we have seen plenty of situations where Returners have performed so well that the company wants to convert them from a contractor to a full-time employee within the first few weeks.  

The average returnship program results in an 85% conversion rate from contract to direct employee.  

(Read: A Comprehensive Guide to Implementing a Successful Returnship Program)


Commit to the returners at the very beginning by hiring them as direct, or permanent, employees. This approach can lend a sense of pride for the Returners as they realize the commitment the company is making to them. As a company, you still can have some type of probationary period during the returnship where the company evaluates each Returner, and each Returner evaluates the company to see if they feel it is a good fit for their career aspirations.   

Benefit: Most companies that we work with cite the desire to demonstrate a commitment to Returners as the reason for hiring them direct from the start. This is certainly understandable, and it does help develop a tremendous amount of goodwill within the Returner community. It is also reassuring for Returners as they often feel unsure about their value to a company due to the gap in their work history. 


Hire returners into the cohort using a combination of contingent and direct hire based on the role and the fit of the Returner. The decision is usually left up to the hiring manager. This option provides flexibility for the program.   

Benefit: Flexibility for the hiring teams is the main benefit of this approach. Some Returners may be so impressive that a hiring manager may want to extend a direct offer right away, while other Returners may not be a perfect fit but might show promise. In this situation, a contract role may be the best choice. 


No matter the approach, we consistently hear from our partners that hiring Returners is one of the best decisions they have made. We are told that Returners are loyal, hard-working, have amazing energy levels, and quickly become major contributors to their teams.