Companies are losing talented staff, and seeing staff cut their hours, because of the high cost of childcare, a business group has found.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has called on the government to tackle the issue and help employees caring for children.
A survey of more than 1,600 business leaders found that a quarter had seen employees cut their hours because of the high cost of childcare, and 10% said that staff had quit their jobs because of it.
The BCC has urged ministers to consider a universal childcare scheme up until children start school, which would help firms attain talented staff and boost productivity.
A third of those polled said access to childcare was a central issue in hiring staff, adding that recruitment should be helped by plans to increase free childcare next year.
Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, said: "The Government should consider the childcare system as part of Britain's core business infrastructure, in the same way that it thinks of energy, transport, or broadband.
"This could take the form of a family account that enables parents to select the support that's right for working parents from the market. In time, this could help businesses raise productivity, and help more parents stay in work.
"As businesses have evolved to become more flexible, Government policy should also evolve, to help as many working parents as possible stay in the workplace."
A Department for Education spokesman said: "We are doing more than ever before to support families with the cost of childcare.
"From next September, we are giving working parents up to 30 hours of childcare a week for three and four year olds, helping to remove the barriers that can stop them from working."