Employers should be doing more to help staff with childcare issues, according to the national childcare charity the Daycare Trust.
The call came as research from the trust revealed that the cost of sending children to nurseries has risen by more than 25% in five years.
A typical full-time nursery place for a child under two now costs £142 a week, almost £7,400 a year, the survey showed. This compares with average earnings of £431 a week last year.
Beth Reid, public affairs officer for the trust, said that many parents missed out on job opportunities because of long waiting lists for childcare.
"There are still practicalities that need to be looked at," she said. "Companies have to allow parents more flexibility for dealing with childcare issues and appreciate the work-life balance."
Some employers are leading the way, with childcare vouchers and workplace nurseries, but more need to get on board, Reid said.
The Childcare Bill currently in Parliament will place a duty on local authorities to provide childcare for working families from 2008.