New parents could take more time off together, a government consultation has proposed this week.
The emphasis of flexible parental leave, as outlined by the "Modern Workplace" consultation, is to give parents greater flexibility in the first year of their child's birth.
It involves 18 weeks of maternity leave and pay – in one continuous block after birth, four weeks of parental leave and pay for each parent in the first year and 30 weeks of additional parental leave for either parents, 17 of which would be paid.
Currently, new mothers are able to take 52 weeks statutory maternity leaves. Statutory maternity pay during the first six weeks is 90% of salary, followed by 33 weeks on statutory maternity pay of £124.88 a week. Fathers meanwhile are allowed two weeks of paternity leave, also at £124.88 a week, but can apply for additional paternity leave (APL) following the introduction of new rules in April this year.
If the father applies for APL, parents can share 46 weeks of parental leave so if the mother returns to work after 20 weeks, the father can take over the mother's leave on statutory pay for the remaining 26 weeks.
Business secretary, Vince Cable, says the regulations will be fairer to fathers and will maintain the existing entitlements for mothers.
"New parents should be able to choose their childcare arrangements for themselves, rather than being dictated to by rigid government regulation as is currently the case" he argues.
Theresa May, home secretary and minister for women and equalities, says Britain's workplace laws are in need of modernisation and the solution is not more bureaucracy but policies that go with the grain of human nature and maximise flexibility and choice.
But Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, says although the absolute priority for the country is to grow businesses and create jobs, further changes to paternity laws are not the answer.
"We are concerned by proposals to increase the total period of parental leave by another four weeks, given the UK already offers some of the most generous provisions in the world. Employment tribunals were designed to settle disputes between individuals and employers, so a proposal to allow them to order equal pay audits across an entire firm is disproportionate and risks introducing class actions by the back door" she adds.