Proposals from the Government and opposition parties to make it easier for people to balance work and family life are welcome at a time when skills shortages are making recruitment and retention difficult, according to the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD).
However, it said all of the proposals run the risk of not effectively combating the perception among workers that maternity and paternity leave is not paid at a sufficiently high level.
Duncan Brown, assistant director general at the CIPD, said: "Flexible employment policies are becoming embedded in the UK world of work. Employers increasingly recognise that workers are more productive and loyal if they are treated well and allowed to balance work and the rest of their lives.
"Skills shortages and near full employment are bringing these issues into sharper focus for employers and policy makers alike," Brown added. "At a time when labour shortages characterise the labour market, giving a good deal to working mothers and fathers becomes a business necessity, not an optional extra."
Brown said the CIPD's most recent research on flexible working showed that fathers feel they simply cannot afford to take up their statutory right to two weeks paternity leave paid at the current rate of £102.80 per week - and are unlikely to be significantly more motivated by £150 per week.
"Less than half would take paternity leave at the current rates, but this figure leaps to 80 per cent if they were paid at 90 per cent of their full pay, and 87 per cent if they are paid at their full level of pay," he said.
The research, which covered more than 1,000 UK workers, found that almost a quarter of employees have requested some form of flexible working. The vast majority of these (87 per cent) have had their requests granted by their employers.