The UK is one of the worst places in Europe for paid parental leave and affordable quality childcare, the UN’s children’s charity has said.
Researchers for Unicef ranked 31 countries on their length of maternity and paternity leave and the proportions of pre-school children above and below the age of three in childcare.
The only European countries below the UK were Cyprus, Greece and Switzerland.
UK parents were among the most likely to blame cost for not using childcare.
Unicef policy and advocacy head Liam Sollis said the research highlighted how working parents in the UK faced major challenges balancing work and their care-giving responsibilities.
Sweden, Norway and Iceland were the top ranked countries.
Unicef said family-friendly policies strengthened the bond between parents and their children, which was key to the development of families and society.
And it said new parents should be offered six months’ paid leave and affordable quality childcare.
The UK offers eligible new mothers:
- six weeks at 90% of their average weekly earnings
- 33 weeks at £149 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings (if lower)
- a further 13 weeks unpaid
It also offers two weeks’ statutory paternity leave, at £149 a week.