In Brief

Workers are quitting jobs over high childcare costs

Trade body says childcare support should be considered as vital to business as 'energy, transport or broadband'

More than one in four companies have reported that some employees have cut hours because of the "high cost of childcare", says the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

A survey of 1,600 businesses found that one in ten firms have had employees leave their jobs altogether because the expense of putting their children into nursery meant it was not economic for them to return to work, says the BBC.

A further eight per cent said that staff had changed roles, while 12 per cent said high childcare costs had a direct impact on productivity. A third said "availability of childcare was a 'key issue in recruiting and retaining staff'".

Average nursery bills in the UK are currently £217.60 per week, according to the Money Advice Service. That's around £900 a month, or close to £11,000 a year. The figure is even higher in London.

Once tax is factored in, the typical second-earner would need to be taking home a notional £13,000 just to afford childcare, and that's before any other costs relating to returning to work, such as travel, are included.

While support is sometimes available in the form of working tax credits, it's easy to see why many workers earning even well above this level decide that returning to work is not worth the effort.

At present, workers get 15 hours' of free childcare once a child hits three, although depending on local rates the benefit can work out at less than that.

There are plans to extend this to 30 hours from September 2017. This still leaves the problem of what to do in the two years between when maximum maternity leave ends and this support kicks in two years' later.

Although almost 40 per cent of the businesses surveyed said the government plans to double free childcare would help, the BCC says it's calling on ministers to consider offering universal childcare until a child starts school.

Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, says 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".

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