• parental leave;
  • early childhood education and care;
  • working parents;
  • comparative;
  • entitlements

Parental leave and early childhood education and care (ECEC) are two policies widely proposed and implemented to support working parents with young children. This article examines entitlement to leave and ECEC in 25 European countries, including 22 EU Member and Accession States, and the relationship between them, in particular to what degree entitlements are aligned to provide parents with integrated support. In most countries, there is a substantial gap between the end of well-paid leave and the start of an entitlement to ECEC. Only five countries, four Nordic States plus Slovenia, are aligned and the article considers some of the reasons for this. It highlights the common approach to ECEC adopted by all five countries, resulting in a fully integrated system, rather than the much more common split system that divides responsibility for children under and over 3 years between welfare and education. The article ends with some speculations about future developments.