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What is a Returnship?

What exactly is a Returnship?

The word ‘returners’ is combined with ‘internship’ to create this term.

There is a minor difference. You may have to pay the company to offer you an internship.

Returnships were devised in UK in 2014, and were meant for both men and women.

I found a lovely image on Flexibees, which explains it well.


Let us take an example. You are asked to pay an amount of INR 1,00,000 or INR 1,50,000 for the return ship, to the agency offering you an opportunity.

You do an unpaid internship with the company for a period of 6 months.

After that, they pay you a stipend of INR 20K or 25K a month, so that you recover your money in 5-6 months.

The company retains the right to retain or terminate you at the end of one year, depending on your performance, cultural fit, suitability or whatever other reasons they devise.


The company gets a free employee for one year. What they pay you back in the latter 4-6 months is your money. This employee is not a fresher, but comes with tremendous experience, expertise and talent.

The agency has earned a commission for sourcing and providing woman-power at low cost.

You get an entry back into the corporate world, even if you are working free. If the job is in line with your prior experience, skills or talent, the springboard works well for you. If not, you project yourself as part of the mainstream, and apply for another job. You are not in a transitional phase any more.

There are pictures and testimonials to show success stories on the internet. Internationally, the claim is that 50%-100% of the women get hired. I’ve not come across statistics for India.

Aspire for Her is the latest to enter the bandwagon. They are offering return ships in banking tech.

Since I couldn’t find a mention of the scheme on their website, and enclosing LinkedIn screenshots for you.

The website link is

Her Second Innings has been doing it for the IT sector for sometime.


Here is an article which examines the idea of returnship from a different angle. It says women are being compelled to return to the same structures, rather than being offered flexibility and value for their experience.




Companies may insist that the break is minimum 0.5-2 years, and a maximum of 8 years or so.

A rigorous process of written tests, and 2-3 rounds of interviews may be followed. My experience is that junior HR executives ask templated questions in the first interview, which an experienced person finds out of place or irritating. One needs to be prepared for the same.

There is an upper age limit, which may be explicitly mentioned or not, but age does matter. Organisational views are that younger candidates are more pliable and can be moulded easily.

Certain companies prefer taking return-ship candidates through references.

So, the lesson is that one should enquire about return-ship vacancies in organisations, with people in your network.


Here are links to the Returnship 2021 programs I found on the web.





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