Childcare costs force parents to reduce their hours or leave their jobs

A new survey from Pregnant Then Screwed shows many parents of preschoolers are reducing their hours or leaving their jobs due to high childcare costs while a survey from Pebble shows the back to the office pressure is leading to many parents looking for new more flexible jobs.

Mother holding baby and working, collage image


One in five parents of preschoolers in households earning less than £50k is leaving the workforce due to the cost of childcare, according to a new survey by Pregnant Then Screwed.

The survey of 11,811 parents with children under five years old, which comes on the back of annual survey which also focused on the impact of the cost of living crisis on parents, found 61% of parents said they or their partner has reduced the number of hours they work due to childcare costs or availability. This increases to 67% for Asian parents and 75% for parents of disabled children. Families who have a household income of under £50k are being hit the hardest – with over three-quarters (76.6%) reducing their hours to make childcare work.

Almost half of parents (48%) said they cannot access the childcare they need, with 77% of those stating that this is due to cost; whilst 47% cannot find suitable or available childcare. 41% of parents have had an increase of between 5-10% in their fees; a further 14% say their fees have risen by more than 10% in the last 10 months.

The survey also found 42% of parents explained that the cost and availability of childcare has prevented them from having any more children. Almost a third of parents, 29%, are now leaning on family and friends for childcare help to bridge their childcare gaps.  Almost a quarter of parents (22.3%) have had to cut back on essential items such as food, heating or clothing to make ends meet. This rises to 47.6% for single parents and 35% for parents of deaf, disabled, neurodivergent children or children with a serious illness. Over one in four (26.1%) have had to use credit cards, borrow money or get into debt to afford increasing childcare costs.

Joeli Brearley, Founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “When household income drops below £50k our data shows that you are statistically more likely to leave the workforce or reduce your hours. This further entrenches poverty and inequality. Our crumbling childcare sector continues to push new families into debt and onto benefits – work does not pay when you have a young child. We currently have the lowest birth rate in the last 20 years in Britain, and yet we are making it harder and harder for families to afford to have children. The cost of having a child today is one that many families cannot bear.”

Back to the office costs

Meanwhile, a survey of 2,000 parents of nursery and primary school-aged children from flexible childcare site Pebble found more than half of parents have felt pressure to be in the office an additional two days a week more than they expected, resulting in higher childcare costs equating to an average of £166 per week.

Two in five parents said that they are struggling to afford the extra costs of childcare. There are also extra commuting costs to factor in.  Pebble says employees have to spend almost £100 (£98.7)  more each week on travel costs. For Londoners, the numbers are even higher, with the average weekly increase in travel costs being £132.92 – equating to more than £500 a month (£531.68). The cost to cover additional childcare in London is higher, too, at £205, which means that Londoners are out of pocket for almost £1,000 more per month to cover these additional office days.

Four in 10 families (37%) say that these extra costs are putting a strain on their finances, with a fifth of families (20%) worried about how long they can afford to keep paying these bills.

The research shows that in order to manage the situation and reduce the high costs associated with childcare, half of parents are planning to quit their current job and are already looking for new roles that allow them to work from home more, whilst over a third say they have already changed jobs to one that doesn’t require them to go into the office as much. 63% of parents say they would like their bosses to be more understanding, and almost half want financial support when they are asked to come into the office for extra days. 45% think parents should be given the right to choose whether they come into the office for any additional time or not.

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