Mothers and fathers will be able to split parental leave under proposals to be set out today by Nick Clegg.
The Deputy Prime Minister will condemn the current system of leave, which assumes women take on the vast bulk of caring for a new baby, as "Edwardian". He will announce that the Coalition will accept Labour's plans to allow a woman who returns to work before the end of maternity leave to transfer the remaining time to the baby's father. The change will come into force in April.
Mr Clegg will add that the Government wants to go further and design a "proper system of shared parental leave" to be in place by 2015.
Ministers are looking at proposals under which mothers would be able to keep their right to six weeks' paid maternity leave and fathers their two weeks of paternity leave.
After that, the overall allowance – pay as well as time off – could be shared between parents, who could be off at the same time if they wanted, or take the time in chunks rather than a single block.
Ministers are also looking at offering a "use-it-or-lose-it" leave allocation for fathers to encourage men to spend more time with their new children.
"Any changes need to reflect the difficult economic circumstances we find ourselves in. But it is right we look at it as we work through the consultation," Mr Clegg will say. "It's also vital these reforms aren't just for rich and affluent families."
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