Last reviewed 23 June 2022

Cost of living increases are leading most news bulletins with the emphasis on fuel, food and energy. Now the TUC has put the spotlight on another rising cost — childcare — with the warning that many parents with pre-school children are caught in a “catch 22”.

With childcare costs soaring and statutory maternity pay falling in real value, the union body has called on the Government to provide urgent funding boost for the sector while criticising its decision to cut staffing requirements so that each member of staff can look after more children.

According to the TUC, the cost of childcare for parents with children under two has increased by more than £2000 a year (£185 a month) since 2010 and, by 2021, the average annual nursery bill for a family with a child under two had risen to £7212 — an increase of 44%.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UK now has the second highest childcare costs among leading economies.

The TUC estimates that parents — with children under two — have to work 9.4 hours a week on average just to be able to cover 25 hours per week of childcare at nursery. This is up from 8.7 hours per week in 2010.

It also argues that the UK’s “paltry” rate of statutory maternity pay is putting financial pressure on mothers to return to work early.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Childcare should be affordable for all. But parents are spending a massive chunk of their pay packets on childcare bills, while their wages stagnate. This is putting huge pressure on family budgets at the same time as other living costs are shooting up.”

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

Employers may be limited in the financial support they are able to provide employees to help with the impact of childcare costs.

However, they can provide assistance in other ways. Embracing flexible working arrangements as part of company culture can allow staff to juggle childcare and working effectively.

This may be through flexi-hours, compressed hours or homeworking.