Millions of parents in the UK are being forced to cut their working hours or stop work altogether after having a second child, according to a survey for Aviva.

The Cost of the sibling survey found that parents with two or more children are feeling the “sibling squeeze”. The current average cost of full-time childcare for two children is £17,000 a year, the survey found, with this figure increasing in some areas such as inner-London where the cost of a nursery can rise to £375 a child a week. Childcare costs for children under two years of age can be even higher.

As a result, many parents are deciding to cut their working hours to care for their children themselves after calculating they would be working purely to cover the cost of placing two or more children in childcare full time.

Nearly six out of 10 parents questioned for the survey said the main reason for cutting their working hours after the birth of their first child was to spend more time with their baby. However, after the birth of their second and subsequent children 39% of parents said the main reason for reducing their hours was financial.

The study also found that 45% of parents who cut their hours or did not return to work after the birth of their second child take at least five years off work until their children reach school age. At this point, parents who return to work often opt for flexible hours to fit in with the times their children are at school.

This five-year absence is potentially costing £125,000 in lost earnings, before factoring in the additional costs of supporting a second child.

One father of two children under the age of two who spoke to the Guardian said: “Childcare costs outweigh the income of a second parent working. However, we would still not place our children in childcare if it was cheaper – it is the sacrifice we have made.

“We would not want a nursery to see our children more than we do. We decided that my wife would work from home and look after the children rather than pursuing a proper career. She will return to work on a flexible basis once my eldest child is in school and my youngest in pre-school.”

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