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Expensive childcare threatens UK living standards

Childcare in the UK is among the most expensive in the world. In many cases, particularly for second earners in middle and low income families, the high cost can prevent them from having a full-time job. These are the findings of research carried out by the Resolution Foundation, which is calling for reforms to childcare.

The report says that in some cases families with two full-time workers may find they are only a few pounds a week better off than if only one of them was working - once benefits, tax, tax credits and childcare costs are taken into account.

A couple on double the average wage with two children in childcare spend almost a third of their disposable income on childcare. By comparison, the OECD average is 12 per cent.

Analysts have pointed out that the rising number of women in work has been key in maintaining household living standards, particularly as men have been earning less. The prohibitive cost of childcare has been identified as a potential threat to living standards.

The Government launched the Childcare Commission in the summer to find ways of reducing childcare costs and encouraging parents back into work. Its report is expected soon.

Employers can do their bit to help working parents through flexible working or home working arrangements - and often reap the benefits of better staff retention, productivity and employee engagement in the process. Flexibility can make all the difference for employees who are having difficulties balancing work and family commitments.

As well as extensive advice available on the Acas website, the Advice leaflet - The right to apply for flexible working (for requests made before 30 June 2014), gives a good overview. Flexible working training is also available for anyone wanting to get the latest on employer and employee rights and responsibilities in employment legislation associated with parents and families.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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