Dundee nurseries receive among the lowest payments to provide free provision in the country, a new study suggests.
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has said nurseries are struggling to pay their staff the national living wage as a result.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request found the average paid by councils across Scotland to support partner provider nurseries is £3.84 per hour, for each three to five-year old.
Dundee City Council pay £3.26, just one pence more than bottom placed Inverclyde Council. 24 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities responded to the FOI request.
The Scottish living wage is £8.75.
However, it was mixed news for the council as the criticism came at a time when they found themselves nominated for paying their own staff the living wage.
Although paying the living wage is not mandatory, it is a condition for nurseries wanting to apply to be a partner provider, thus providing them government funding for eligible children.
The NDNA claims an overwhelming majority, 97%, of its members, are not being paid the living wage and only 7% of its member nurseries have considered going through the Scottish Living Wage accreditation process, with 3% actually going through the process.
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA Scotland, said: “The results demonstrate how crucial it is that the Scottish Government ensures that local authorities offer a funding rate which is sustainable.
“The present rates are woefully inadequate to be able to pay the rising cost of the workforce.
“Until this situation is resolved and sufficient investment put into funded childcare, staff will be poorly paid and continue to leave for better prospects in the public sector.”
NDNA Scotland represents 55% of private nurseries in the country.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “A high quality workforce is the single most important driver of the quality of a child’s early learning and childcare experience – and the promotion of fair work practices, including fair pay, is key to supporting that.
“That’s why, as part of our commitment to fully fund our ambitious expansion of the early learning and childcare entitlement by 2020, we will provide additional revenue for local authorities to set sustainable rates for private and third sector providers to enable them to pay the living wage.”
A Dundee City Council spokeswoman said: “A national working group has been established to look at the implementation of the living wage commitment, including guidance on the level of the funding rate for funded providers.
“We will be undertaking work locally within this guidance to look at implementation of this commitment once the full multi-year funding package has been confirmed by the Scottish Government.
“The current hourly rate quoted does not reflect the total amount of in-kind support funded providers currently receive from the local authority such as staff development, pre and post-inspection support and quality improvement.”