The end of the federal government's free childcare policy is likely to lead to less women re-entering the workforce, Women's Legal Service Tasmania chief executive Yvette Cehtel said.
"People are less likely to be flexible and to be able to accommodate their employer's requests," she said.
"It's more effective to do less, longer, days in terms of childcare costs but that's not the way businesses have responded to COVID.
"[Free childcare] should stay to address the gender inequality that women experience, because they are still the main caregiver of children.
"I know that co-parenting is what we should all be aiming for - mothers and fathers having equal responsibility for looking after children - but it's just not the present reality."
She said childcare was particularly expensive for women working casual and part-time, who are more likely to be required to work shorter shifts spread out over multiple days.
Those women are more likely to choose to stay home and look after children regardless of their preference since childcare is often more expensive than their wages.
Ms Cehtel is a signatory to the Snap Forward Feminist Policy Network submission to the Federal Senate Select Committee on COVID-19.
The submission outlines how women have borne the economic brunt of COVID-19, and how the pandemic could be an opportunity to "transform Australia into a more resilient, inclusive and equitable society".
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It advocates continuing free childcare among 10 policy recommendations for the crisis recovery period, noting that 55 per cent of people made unemployed by the crisis were women, the majority part-time workers.
"Gender equality must be central to recovery efforts," it says. "Our economic recovery depends on it."
"COVID-19 has revealed that paid childcare and early childhood education is an essential part of Australia's economic infrastructure and underpins economic participation for men and women.
"Neither the early childhood education sector nor families reliant on [it] will have recovered from the impacts of COVID-19 in the immediate term, and access to free [care] should remain in place until the rate of recovery for families and the industry is clearer."
University of Tasmania senior lecturer Lucy Tatman added the childcare sector as a whole was in need of review.
"It is crucial to acknowledge that those who work in childcare are paid on average just under $23.00 an hour, while the average full-time hourly wage in Australia is just under $43.00 an hour," she said.
"The question is why? Why is childcare so poorly paid? Why don't we value the care of children? Why don't we acknowledge that it is difficult, demanding work to care for children, and compensate those who do that work accordingly?
"Could it be that childcare is not valued precisely because so many women do it, and many of those women do it for no pay at all?"
With pre-COVID subsidies, Australian families spend the 11th highest amount of their weekly budget on childcare out of the 37 countries in the OECD.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stood by the plan to end the free childcare policy on July 12.
"Suspending the normal payment arrangements and subsidy arrangements ... that is not a sustainable model for how the childcare sector should work, and nor was it intended to be," he has said.
Childcare workers are also the first to be cut off from JobKeeper payments, which will end for them on July 20 instead of on September 27 like all other workers.