Firms are losing talented staff, or seeing workers cut their hours, because of the high cost of childcare, a business group has warned.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) called on the Government to tackle the growing issue and bridge the gap between parental leave and children starting school.
A survey of more than 1,600 business leaders found that one in four had seen employees cut their hours because of the high cost of childcare, and one in 10 said staff had actually quit.
The BCC urged ministers to consider a universal childcare entitlement up until a child starts school, which would help firms retain staff and boost productivity.
A third of those polled said the availability of childcare was a central issue in hiring staff, adding that recruitment should be helped by Government plans to increase free childcare next year.
Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, said: "Firms across the UK are losing talented staff, often because of the availability and high cost of childcare.
"At a time when economic growth is softening, and skills gaps and recruitment difficulties are hindering businesses, the Government should consider the childcare system as part of Britain's core business infrastructure, in the same way that it thinks of energy, transport, or broadband.
"Government must take a clear and detailed look at the costs and benefits of a universal childcare entitlement, to bridge the gap between parental leave and the start of school.
"This could take the form of a family account that enables parents to select the support that's right for working parents from the market. In time, this could help businesses raise productivity, and help more parents stay in work.
"As businesses have evolved to become more flexible, Government policy should also evolve, to help as many working parents as possible stay in the workplace."
David Williams, of Middlesex University, which helped with the research, said: "Businesses need to retain talented staff and with the renewed focus from the Government on upskilling the workforce, particularly around apprenticeships and corporate degrees, it is crucial that there is sufficient affordable childcare available for employees who are studying to help fill the skills gaps.
"The childcare support available for those studying needs to be simplified and made clearer for all to help tackle gender inequality and maintain diverse workforces."
A Department for Education spokesman said: "We are doing more than ever before to support families with the cost of childcare.
"From next September, we are giving working parents up to 30 hours of childcare a week for three and four year olds, helping to remove the barriers that can stop them from working."