Return to Work - Planning: Council Information Pack

Return to work - planning front cover
Designed to support councils with the recruitment of planners, this free programme will run a national recruitment drive on your authority’s behalf and give you the chance to connect with experienced professionals who are eager to join local government.


Return to Work – Planning is one of four return to work programmes, developed by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Government Equalities Office (GEO).

Designed to support councils with the recruitment of planners, this free programme will run a national recruitment drive on your authority’s behalf and give you the chance to connect with experienced professionals who are eager to join local government.

Candidates recruited onto the programme will be professionals with experience in planning, or with transferable experience from other services, who are currently on a career break and would like support to step back into their profession.

They will receive free training from the Planning Advisory Service (PAS), who specialise in providing government officers and councillors with high-quality advice and training on planning and service delivery.

The programme is also endorsed by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the UK professional planning body and leading membership organisation who champions the power of planning in creating prosperous places and vibrant communities.

logos of Planning Advisory service and the Royal town planning institute


The benefits of signing up to this free programme and hiring one of our candidates are outlined in this publication.

What does my involvement look like?

Signing up to the Return to Work – Planning programme means that you will receive free support from the LGA to fill vacancies in your planning teams.

You will be given access to the LGA’s online recruitment platform and be able to search for returning professionals in your area. You will then be able to review their skills and experience and reach out to those who best fit with your organisation.

With the LGA completing a nation-wide recruitment drive on your behalf, you can focus on developing your COVID-19 recovery plans until such a time that you are ready to select and interview one or more of our candidates. You will also be able to hire our candidates without incurring the additional costs associated with using recruitment agencies.

We cannot guarantee employment matches, but we are pleased to offer you a way to connect with committed professionals who are eager to join councils.

We recommend that you complete your usual recruitment checks on your selected candidate(s).

Who are the Return to Work - Planning candidates?

The Return to Work – Planning programme will support people with experience in town planning, or with transferable experience from other services, to return to work following a career break.

With funding provided by the GEO, the programme aims to support professionals who have taken career breaks of 12 months or more to care for someone.

The programme will also consider applications from professionals who have caring responsibilities and have become unemployed due to COVID-19, or from those who have been in long-term unemployment.

The GEO has set these eligibility requirements to help those who have taken career breaks to restart their careers at the right level for their skills and experience.

Those recruited will either have a minimum of two years’ experience working in a role connected to town planning or in one of the following, related disciplines:

  • architecture
  • environmental management
  • engineering
  • construction
  • legal services
  • academia
  • geographical analytics/research
  • finance/compliance.

Participants will be provided with free training from PAS, who will provide them with:

  • a re-introduction to working in town planning, covering changes to policies and procedures and where appropriate, focused training on specific areas of planning
  • an introduction to the future of town planning and the Government’s proposed planning reforms
  • the opportunity to complete training on practical competencies, such as the use of digital tools, communication skills and problem solving
  • an introduction to working in local government
  • practical learning from industry experts about good practice.

As well as providing the necessary training, our programme is uniquely designed to mentor, coach and rebuild the confidence of these individuals. In doing so, the programme will increase their resilience, harness the wealth of their experience and knowledge, and ultimately bring them back up to speed so they are ready to join your organisation today.

What are the benefits of signing up and employing a returner?

  1. Tackle agency spending

Signing up to this programme will give you access to a national pool of skilled, diverse and committed professionals, who are completing training to refresh their skills and knowledge.

Our aim is to help you avoid the costs associated with recruitment drives and hiring agency staff, which cost councils £335 million in 2017/18.

  1. Cost-effective recruitment

Signing up to our programme is a cost-effective way to bring experienced employees into your organisation, compared with using a recruitment agency. Through our government-funded programme, you will not incur percentage-based fees for successful hires or any fees at all.

  1. Improved gender, age and cognitive diversity

Programmes that help people return to work after career breaks for caring responsibilities, have a positive impact on diversifying organisations.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 89 per cent of people who are out of paid work for caring responsibilities are female. A large number of these women have professional/managerial experience.

Hiring ‘returners’ can therefore help you expand your female talent pipeline, boost the presence of women in your management teams, and have a positive effect on your gender pay gap.

Hiring returners can also improve the age diversity of your organisation, bringing in individuals with high levels of experience, maturity and commitment.

The GEO also note that returners tend to offer a different way of looking at problems and situations, which can help enhance your organisation’s cognitive diversity.

  1. Access to a new high-calibre talent pool

A large number of returners come with high levels of skills, education, and professional/managerial experience. Taking a career break has enabled them to gain new skills and enhanced life experience outside of their vocation, which can broaden the skill set of your teams.

  1. Improved employer brand/image

Employing a returner can have a positive impact on your image as an employer, signalling that you are a flexible organisation that supports parents and carers in the workplace.

It can also show that your organisation is open to and accepting of non-linear career pathways and values the role that caring plays in society. These images play a key role in both the recruitment and retention of talented employees.

Programme timeline

Stage 1 – candidate application process

29 September 2020 – 18 December 2020

Return to Work – Planning will launch on 29 September for candidate applications. Candidates will be asked to complete both an online application and a video assessment, to ensure that they have the right skills and experience to return to work within your authority.

To encourage experienced town planners living in your area to apply for our programme, please read our Communications Toolkit for Councils. In this guide, you will find templates for multiple communication platforms to make sharing the programme as simple as possible. Please feel free to tailor the examples to suit your area and organisation.

Stage 2 – council sign-up process

Dates: From 18 November

To sign up to this free programme, please visit our Return to Work – Planning website and select the ‘Sign up’ button. You will then be taken to our job vacancies site, where you will be asked to register and complete an online form. Should you need any support with completing this form, please contact the LGA’s Return to Work team.

Stage 3 – candidate training

Dates: From January 2021

During this time, our participants will be invited to complete online training with PAS. The online training will be flexible, meaning they can complete their training whilst discussing employment opportunities with your council.

Stage 4 - connecting with professionals

Dates: From January 2021

At this stage of the programme, you will be given the opportunity to connect with the experienced professionals who are developing their skills through our programme.

Our participants will have outlined their skills, experience and recent training on our recruitment platform, and you will be invited to review their credentials. This will give you the chance to find and select returning professionals in your area.

We recommend that you complete your usual recruitment checks on your selected candidate(s).

Next steps

Sign up

Thank you for your interest in Return to Work - Planning. To sign up to our free programme, please visit our website. Further information about how to access our online portal and connect with returning professionals will be supplied in early 2021.

Further support

If you have any queries or would like additional support during the registration process, please contact our Return to Work team.