The Early Childhood Council warns some early childhood centres have blundered into pay parity for their teachers and cannot afford it.
The government's contribution toward pay parity rates, which came into effect this year for senior teachers, was inadequate, Early Childhood Council (ECC) said.
ECC chief executive Simon Laube said a survey of 549 early learning centres found small centres had the highest proportion of experienced teachers.
"They don't really like large centres," Laube said.
Small centres "shouldn't really be able to survive" under pay parity, because their staff costs would increase as much as 24 percent, but their government funding would increase by half that figure, he said.
"They'll just do it because they want to pay teachers more and that is actually something we would say is a good thing. The problem is that the policy will create unviable centres in some cases."
ECC had advised its members on the costs of signing up for the extension of pay parity to senior teachers this year, and many had gone ahead even though the government funding did not match the increased costs, Laube said.
"Think about all those centres that have no-one looking after them... they will have blundered into this and they may not even know the situation that they are in right now."
The council was talking to centre managers to find out if they were now deliberately hiring less experienced teachers to save on salary costs, Laube said.
"What we're hearing anecdotally are that centres are having to give their recruiting manager instructions along the lines of 'if you have to choose between two teachers, we need you to choose the less experienced teacher' because financial viability is a necessary thing for them to ensure."
The survey found most centres paid pay parity rates to teachers with up to five years' experience, but not to those with six years or more experience.
Senior teachers were paid between $33 and $38-an-hour and as much as $7.40-an-hour less than the pay parity rate for their level of experience.
The survey report said government funding for pay parity provided increases of about 12 percent but wage bills at centres with mostly or only experienced teachers could increase 21 percent, leaving them worse off financially.