Ministers and businesses will be soon be consulting on proposals that could enable parents to flexibly manage their parental leave between themselves.
Under the proposed reforms, a father may take up any remaining unpaid leave if their partner goes back to work early.
From April 2011, if a mother returns to work without taking a full year's maternity leave the father will be able to take the remaining time, up to a maximum of six months.
According to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, the move could remove the notion that taking time off as a father is less important.
He said that it would remedy the current situation under which new fathers only receive two weeks of paternity leave.
Business bodies have spoken out in favour of the move, but have urged the government to make sure that the provisions in the new legislation are easy to implement.
Commenting on the new proposals, CBI director for employment policy Katja Hall said: "We support moves to make parental leave more flexible. This will help families better balance their work and home life."
Women's groups have said that the move is also likely to be a boost for women who work in senior positions as they can choose to take less time off work.
Published on: January 18, 2011