MOTHERS with a full-time job need to work for up to four months of the year just to break even on their childcare costs, research has found.
But there are strong regional variations across Britain, with mothers in the South West having to work for almost 19 weeks a year before the cost of a childminder or a nursery is covered – compared with just over 15 weeks for mothers in the West Midlands, according to mutual Family Investments.
Yorkshire and Humberside was a notable exception, with mothers needing to work an above-national average 17.7 weeks a year.
The findings are based on a mother having one young child and having no childcare help from relatives or government schemes to help working parents.
On average, the study found that a mother pays £7,127 a year to a childminder or nursery and would need to work for 17 weeks a year before she has broken even on these costs.
The research used average childminder and nursery costs taken from local authorities as well as regional earnings figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
London was found to have the highest typical annual childcare costs, at £9,283 – but London mothers also had the highest average wages at £15.07 an hour.
This means that the number of weeks they need to work a year to break even is around average, at just under 17.
Mums living in the north tend to need to work for a week less a year than those living in the south of England to break even on their childcare costs, researchers said.
Kate Moore, head of savings and investments at Family Investments, said: “These figures highlight the very significant costs mums face if they choose to return to work after maternity leave and the fact that they will spend up to four months of the year simply working towards these costs.”
She added: “What really jumps out from these figures is both the scale of the costs involved and the disparities in local affordability.”
Parents are entitled to increased levels of help with childcare costs after their child’s third birthday, with 15 hours a week of free early education.