Parents will be able to split their maternity and paternity leave from 5 April 2015, the government announced today.
The hope is that the changes will increase flexibility for families, and remove the assumption that women will do more child rearing than men.
Under the new rules, parents will be able to split up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them.
Previously men received one or two weeks paternity leave, then up to another 26 weeks paid leave if their partner returned to work.
And under previous rules women had to take two weeks off, with an option of 26 weeks ordinary leave and a further 26 weeks additional leave, at varying rates of pay.
“The old maternity leave system reinforced the archaic assumptions that the bulk of childcare responsibilities should be done by mums, and failed to recognise the vitally important role that dads and partners have to play,” said employment relations minister Jo Swinson.
However, take-up of the new leave rules may be limited – a survey from Glassdoor found less than one-quarter of men believe parental leave should be shared, with opposition higher among older men.