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Rising childcare costs outstrip maternity pay

The UK's childcare costs are the highest in the developed world, yet maternity pay has dipped over the last 12 years.

Research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found childcare costs have risen by £2,200 each year since 2010, coinciding with the Conservative party coming back into power.

In an ongoing cost of living crisis, the UK's childcare costs are the highest in the developed world according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In 2021, the average nursery bill for a family with a child under two was £7,212 - up 44% from 2010.

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While childcare costs have soared, maternity pay has moved in the opposite direction. 

Statutory maternity pay was worth £151.97 a week in 2021/22, representing a £5 per week fall since 2010.

A survey by Essity found the 30% salary contribution UK employers make on average to maternity pay was among the lowest when compared to other developed countries across the world.

Anna Whitehouse, author and founder of flexible working campaign Flex Appeal, suggested that the government is making the situation harder for working mothers than it needs to be.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “It costs the economy when mums do not return to the workplace, so why the government is pricing mums out of working with these obscene nursery price hikes is beyond infuriating.

"Many families need to work more than ever once they have hungry mouths to feed, but they cannot pay to go to work. It just doesn’t add up."

Whitehouse added that better flexible working practices could be a good solution.

She added: "Flexible working can make all the difference to working parents. It helps to navigate the chaos of working and nursery times, it gives passionate mothers the ability to work part-time and around the clock, so they can work at all. 

"Part-time doesn’t mean part-passionate, and now more than ever we need to celebrate working mums by affording them the ability to work at all.”

Denise Priest, executive director for work and family solutions at childcare provider Bright Horizons, said that putting money into workplace nurseries would be a great benefit.

She told HR magazine: "Investment in workplace nurseries is a proven way to help make childcare more affordable and accessible for working parents and carers. Our research has shown that 95% of those who had access to a workplace nursery would recommend their employer to other working parents.

"Workplace nurseries are hugely beneficial in terms of employee retention and attraction – a win-win for all concerned. Employers can play a meaningful role in considering how childcare is part of their organisational infrastructure.

"Our Work and Family Snapshot survey published this month shows that employees now expect their family commitments to be understood and supported. Of those we surveyed, 58% said that had become a higher priority for them over the past year."