Almost one in five parents have had to leave their jobs because of the cost of childcare, a new study suggests.
A similar number want to work but cannot afford to because of the cost of childcare, while two out of three parents have to work fewer hours, according to research.
A survey of 1,800 parents found that most said childcare costs caused financial anxiety in the home.
Campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed said its study showed that the cost of childcare is “exorbitant”, with women mainly bearing the brunt of the impact, adding to the gender pay gap and “motherhood penalty”.
The group said parents have two years of high costs even though there is tax-free childcare for those who are employed, and 30 hours’ free childcare from the age of three if criteria are met.
Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “Our latest piece of research highlights exactly why women fall behind in the workplace, and that is because of the punitive costs of childcare.
“If we are to change the landscape for women, and parents, we need to provide properly subsidised childcare from nine months old.
“The Government have introduced 30 hours’ ‘free’ childcare from three years old, and tax-free childcare for employees, but this is not enough and impacts not only the parents but childcare providers as they are unable to cover the cost of delivery.
“Women only get one year of maternity leave with only nine months paid, so there are two years that they either stay at home with the children because of the high cost of childcare or return to work with a huge bill hanging over them, with many reducing their hours in order to strike a balance.
“Our childcare system is failing parents, it is failing childcare providers and it is failing childcare staff.
“We need the Government to create a childcare system that works so that nurseries can stay open and provide good quality care and so that we can close the gender pay gap and start to tackle the motherhood penalty.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “We are investing record amounts in childcare and early education, including around £3.5 billion on our free early education entitlements this year alone – and 600,000 three and four-year-olds have benefited from a 30 hours place in the first two years of the delivery of the programme.
“Working parents are also benefiting from help with their childcare costs through Tax-Free Childcare and Universal Credit.
“We want to support early years providers in delivering high quality care and education, which is why we recently announced an extra £66 million to increase hourly rates for the Government’s free hours offers for 2020-21.”