Fathers are to be given the right to take six months’ paternity leave, under new plans to be announced by the government.
Currently, dads are only entitled to two weeks’ paid leave whereas mothers may take 52 weeks in total, of which 39 are paid.
Under the new proposals, new fathers will be able to take additional paternity leave and pay during the second six months of their child’s life - if the mother wishes to return to work with maternity leave outstanding.
Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, says the new rules will allow mothers to transfer the last six months of their 39-week maternity leave to the father, with three months paid.
“This gives families radically more choice and flexibility in how they balance work and care of children, and enables fathers to play a bigger part in bringing up their children,” she adds.
Fathers will would be paid at the same rate as statutory maternity pay - currently £123.06.
The changes, due to be introduced on or after 3 April 2011, will allow couples to have a total of 12 months' parental leave.
However, take-up is expected to be low.
The news has angered business leaders, who argue that extended leave for working fathers will not only be hugely disruptive but also costly at a time when the economy is still recovering from the recession.
Government figures show around 350,000 working mothers give birth every year, with two thirds returning to work.
Employed parents are currently entitled to a total of 13 weeks unpaid parental leave until the child’s fifth birthday. Parents of children aged 16 and under have the right to request flexible working.
The introduction of additional paternity leave will not affect these rights.