From 2015, new fathers will be able to share parental leave, the government has announced.
The changes will allow new parents to share leave and statutory pay. New mothers will continue to be entitled to two weeks off after giving birth, but the remaining 50 weeks of paid maternity leave can now be split between both parents.
However, employers will still have the right to request that it is all taken at once, with employees giving at least eight weeks’ notice of their plan to take leave.
New parents will be entitled to return to the same job if they take six months off or less. Parents taking off over six months may return to a role that is similar.
Workers union the TUC criticised the fact that parents may return to find their job has changed.
General secretary Frances Grady said: “By failing to give parents the right to return to the same job after six months, the Government has missed an opportunity to prevent a constant source of pregnancy discrimination, where mums returning to work find that their job has changed.
“The proposal will create confusion for employers and be a source of anxiety for women who decide to take more than six months of leave.”
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said the reforms could stop women feeling as though they have to choose between a successful career or having a baby.
He said: “We want to create a fairer society that gives parents the flexibility to choose how they share care for their child in the first year.”