Returning after a career break
You can take a break of up to two years and remain on the HCPC register.
To renew your registration – which happens every two years – you need to have practised your profession at some point during the two-year registration period.
If you have not practised for more than two years, but have remained on the HCPC register, you do not need to complete the returning to practice process. However, you may want to complete some returning-to-work evidence to increase your confidence, knowledge and skills. If so, contact us to discuss your options.
The main requirement for returning to the profession is to gain HCPC registration again, the HCPC require anyone that has not been registered with them for two years or more to complete period of return-to-work evidencing.
If you have not practised for more than two years and want to return to the profession, you need to complete the HCPC returning to practice document.
Return-to-work evidencing consists of collecting a variety of evidence to prove how you have been ensuring that you have been trying to refresh your knowledge and skills.
You can download the HCPC’s information booklet on returning-to-practice through their website, but the basics behind their requirements are:
- If you have not been registered with the HCPC for between 2-5 years you will have to complete 30 days of return-to-work evidence
- If you have not been registered with the HCPC for over 5 years you will have to complete 60 days of return-to-work evidence
Returning to practice guidance
The RCSLT is keen to encourage therapists who have been on career breaks to return to work as part-time or full-time SLTs.
Is it easy to get back into the profession after a break?
In the current financial climate, it is likely to be a challenging time for returners to practice who need extra supervision/support from employers and are competing with SLTs who have not had a career break.
HCPC rules state that a returner to practice can’t use the speech and language therapist protected title.
You will have to complete the returning to practice process and return to the HCPC register. After completing the return to work process, you will be able to apply for roles as before.
A tip suggested by the RCSLT returners to practice forum is to avoid lapsing your HCPC registration. According to the HCPC, you can be considered practising if you continue to undertake CPD and practice even a small amount per year.
How is ‘practising your profession’ defined?
For returning to practice, the HCPC defines ‘practising your profession’ as: ‘Drawing on your professional skills and knowledge in the course of your work.’
If you are concerned your position may not fall under the HCPC’s definition of practising your profession, please be aware this is not exclusive to traditional, frontline speech and language therapy work. The definition also includes roles in:
- education, eg a lecturer or teacher of a speech and language therapy programme
- management, eg a clinical lead or service lead with minimal direct-patient contact
- research, eg a researcher in an academic or clinical setting focusing on speech and language therapy.
Other roles within the HCPC’s definition of practising your profession are SLTs undertaking volunteer or part-time roles related to speech and language therapy.
As the range of roles undertaken by SLTs is varied and wide-reaching, the individual, as opposed to the RCSLT or the HCPC, is best placed to decide whether their experience falls within this definition.
HCPC process and guidance
The HCPC has guidance on the returning to practice process. You need to complete this if you are returning to practice after a break of more than two years.
Most of the information is for professionals who:
- are not currently registered
- need to apply for readmission to the register
- are registered but have been out of practice for more than two years
You might also find this guidance helpful if you are:
- considering a break in your practice
- thinking about what this might mean in the future
- considering supervising or employing a returner
Find out more in HCPC’s return to practice guidance.
Informal online group for returners
The RCSLT has an informal Basecamp group for people who are returning to practice. Contact us if you want to be added to this group.
Explore our jobs board for the latest opportunities in SLT
If you’re ready to apply for work, have a look at the latest vacancies on our job board here.
Joining or rejoining the RCSLT
You are able to join/rejoin the RCSLT straight away (this may be beneficial as members now are able to access over 1,700 journal titles free through our website which may help with your private study element).
What happens to your RCSLT membership status when you return to work?
You will be added as a returner initially, this category would then change to full membership once you have completed the return to practice process and gained HCPC registration.
Returning to practice courses
There are a number of return to practice courses developed or run by universities across the country.
Birmingham City University runs a distance learning course aimed at allied health professionals (AHPs) returning to practice after a career break.
This course counts for approximately 115 hours towards the HCPC return to work process and is classed as ‘professional study’.
Email the RCSLT or call 0207 378 3012 for more information about this and other courses.
Universities that offer speech and language therapy degrees often also have short courses available that can help to refresh your skills.
Download our list of universities offering accredited speech and language therapy programmes.
How do I access other professional courses which I can use towards my return to work requirements?
Courses are also advertised in Bulletin magazine and this may be a useful place to look for appropriate learning opportunities (that will also count towards your return to work evidencing).
Returning to practice in England
If you live in England, Health Education England (HEE) has a programme to encourage returners to practice. It covers funding in three areas:
- academic study
- practice placement
- out of pocket expenses
Thinking of returning to practice in England? Look at the HEE advice and resources and register your interest for the programme.
Supporting your study and financing
HEE provides some financial support to help you meet the re-registration requirements for the HCPC. Find out more about financing.
Returning to practice in Scotland
The NHS Scotland Careers website provides information on how to step back into your career.
NHS Education for Scotland, through the AHP Practice Education Programme, is increasing the support and guidance available for people considering re-registering with the HCPC. If you’re not sure where to start, you can organise a career conversation with an adviser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Returning to practice in Wales
NHS Wales provides guidance on returning to practice, HCPC re-registering requirements and funding available for returners.
How do I access supervised practice as part of my return to work requirements?
The national programme for return to practice is also able to link members up with therapists and organisations in their local area who are willing and able to help support supervised practice. You can contact them through the same link as above.
You may also want to approach your local NHS service or private therapists to enquire whether they have capacity to provide this type of support to help with the return-to-work requirements. NHS services can be accessed through the NHS Choices website.
Private or independent therapists can be searched using the Association for Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP) website.
How do I evidence my return-to-work requirements for the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)?
Evidencing the return-to-practice requirements should be done in three main ways:
- Private study – this consists of reading articles/books, etc. and reflecting on how you will use what you have learnt in your future practice and to the benefit of your patients.
- Professional study – attendance at courses or study days, including return-to-practice distance learning courses, CEN/Hub study days and other clinical courses.
- Supervised practice – this involves shadowing an SLT much like on a student placement.
The only stipulation that the HCPC place on this is that no more than 50% of the time spent can be evidenced via private study with the remainder evidenced through either of the other two methods, or a combination of the two.
The RCSLT return to practice egroup may be useful to join as it is made up of people that are currently trying to get through the process as well as those that have recently completed it and may offer some useful advice/guidance. If you want to join, then do contact us and we can get you set up.
The RCSLT is also currently involved in a trial programme aimed at supporting allied health professionals back into their profession through the HCPC return to practice evidencing requirements in England.
The programme has links to voluntary and paid returner work, as well as links to courses etc. and is accessible to any speech therapists currently accessing the return-to-work process through the HCPC.
Does maternity/paternity leave count as a career-break?
Maternity leave that is under two years would not be considered a career-break. If it is over two years, we recommend contacting the HCPC to discuss your individual case.
We have revised our policy on CPD requirements during maternity/paternity leave to bring this in line with current HCPC policy.
Whether you remain registered as practising or non-practising with the RCSLT during your maternity/paternity leave, there is no set number of hours of CPD you need to fulfil.
However, if you retain your practising status with the RCSLT during your leave, we expect you to maintain a basic level of CPD.
As a guideline, the RCSLT suggests that ‘minimal’ CPD might be two to three examples you reflect on well. The HCPC is looking for quality over quantity.
Examples of CPD activities while on parental leave
Self-directed at home
- Reading Bulletin
- Reading journals
- Reading national and local policy
- Reading RCSLT position papers/guidelines
- Free e-learning resources relevant to SLTs
Self-directed outside of home
- Clinical support and networks
- Research events
- Reflection on a ‘keeping in touch’ day
- Voluntary work, eg being a school governor, participating in parent-toddler or new baby groups.
Your minimum RCSLT CPD requirement will be calculated on a pro rata basis when you return to work after maternity/paternity leave.
- for practitioners who work full-time, the minimum number of CPD hours is 30
- or 2.5 hours a month x the number of months from when you return to work and the end of the CPD year (the CPD year is 1 April to 31 March).
By recording your maternity/paternity leave in the special circumstances section of the online diary, you and the HCPC will have a record of this if needed.
HCPC guidelines now state that registrants maintain a very basic level of CPD throughout a maternity leave.
In regards to CPD audit, maternity/paternity leave and extended sickness either during the two-year cycle that is being audited or during the audit window itself, would give grounds to apply for a CPD deferral.
If the registrant did not receive the deferral, or chose to complete a CPD portfolio anyway, as long as an extended period of absence was explained in the CPD portfolio this would be taken into account when the portfolio was being assessed.
If the registrant’s deferral request was successful, the CPD audit would be deferred until the next two-year cycle. For example, when the next CPD audit took place, any registrants who had deferred would definitely be selected.
The case studies below have been produced with input from members who have either returned to practice or supported speech and language therapists to return to practice. They discuss how they found the process including challenges and recommendations for anyone considering returning to practice or supporting someone to return.
Anne is a speech and language therapist that had left the profession for 12 years. Anne developed a strong desire to return to the profession during the pandemic but had never actually worked in the NHS. Anne began the return to practice process alongside working another job and looking after her children. The process took 2 years and included participation in the HEE leadership programme and attendance of the Birmingham City University course. Anne then returned to a band 5 role.
Ruth is a speech and language therapist that had been out of her role for 20 years. Ruth was a speech and language therapist for four and a half years but changed roles to work in the recruitment of Allied Health Professionals and then fundraising. The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst for Ruth to return to practice and she attended the Birmingham City University course. Following this, Ruth got a job as a band 5 speech and language therapist but quickly moved into a band 6 role. Ruth started off working with adults and children and now only works with children but found having a flexible approach helped her find roles and support the trusts.
Miriam is a lead at an early years service and recently went through the process of supporting two speech and language therapists return to practice. Of the two returnees, one had qualified 10 years prior but had never practiced, instead they got a job in a special school. The other had a family career gap but left at a highly specialist level. They joined as support workers using the NHS bank which encouraged a flexible approach, enabling the returnees to meet HCPC requirements, including the necessary clinical hours. By signing up using the bank, the returnees had the opportunity to try different clinical areas. After meeting the requirements to return to practice, both returnees successfully applied for full time speech language therapist roles when they became available in the service.
Miriam found the process extremely valuable, stating “it is a great investment to have someone who has got the experience that they bring, whether it is just life experience, or external experiences working for different organisations, not as a speech therapist, and then coming back that does bring a different angle, diversity to the table.”