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Britain prepares for ‘The Great Return’ as an estimated 1.5 million workers plan to ‘boomerang’ back to a previous employer

  • 1 in 5 (19%) employees had either returned (‘boomeranged’) to a previous employer or plan to in the near future
  • The 5% of employees planning to boomerang back to a previous employer is the equivalent of 1.5 million people, based on extrapolated data
  • Work/life balance is the most popular reason cited for workers to return
  • More than 1 in 3 (36%) said work culture in combination with better employee benefits had or would tempt them back

Latest research from leading employee benefits provider Unum UK finds that 1 in 5 (19%) UK workers have returned to a previous employer within the past 5 years or plan to in the near future1, in what’s being dubbed as the ‘boomerang’ employee phenomenon.

Work culture and better employee benefits were cited by 36% of respondents as a reason for returning to a previous employer. This mirrors Unum’s previous research findings from ‘The Big Quit’, which discovered that 40% of UK employees would be attracted to a new employer with a better benefits package.2

Among the surveyed boomerang employees, work/life balance was a reason behind more than a third of employees returning (34%) – indicating the importance workers now put on juggling their personal and professional lives since the pandemic forced so many to adapt to home working.

These findings might be viewed by some employers as a welcome relief during a particularly challenging time, as of February 2022 there were a record 1.3 million vacancies in the UK.3

87% of boomerang employees surveyed said they would boomerang again in the future – 33% of whom would do so for a higher salary closely followed by 28% who would move for a better benefits package.

As well as work culture and better benefits, among those who said they boomeranged to a previous employer, or plan to, some of the other reasons for returning were:

  • Higher salary (25%)
  • Offer of promotion (21%)
  • Flexible/Hybrid working options (19%)
  • Better environment, social and governance (ESG) commitments (14%)

35% of respondents who said they boomeranged within the last 5 years, or plan to, were from London – a stark contrast to 8% in the East of England. Whilst many may think of the UK’s capital as a city full of new opportunities, those employers based there are attracting back their lost talent at a higher rate than other areas of the country.

Glenn Thompson, Chief Distribution Officer at Unum UK commented:

“Our research found that 1 in 5 employees have returned to a previous employer (or plans to in the future). But interestingly, although the offering of better salary or promotions are important in employees' decisions, it’s the combination of culture, benefits and work/life balance that are proving crucial to employees’ choice to stay, leave or boomerang. With a very tight labour market (1.3 million vacancies as of February 20224), employers must understand these factors and offer what employees need to be tempted back, given rehiring an old employee can potentially be more efficient than training someone who's brand new to the business." 

1 Research conducted by Opinium research between 4 -8 March 2022 amongst a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults.
2 Research conducted by Opinium research between 28 September and 1 October 2021 amongst a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults.
3 Vacancies and jobs in the UK

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