The Department of Trade & Industry has ruled that companies who do not take parents' requests for a new work-life balance seriously could have to pay them up to eight weeks' pay.
The decision should please business groups who wanted the limit to be four weeks - and rile unions and equal rights campaigners who demanded a 52-week penalty.
From April, the Government's flexible working regulations will give parents with young and disabled children the right to request flexible working.
However, they do not have the right to demand new hours, and many commentators believe employers will dodge the issue.
While the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, tries to promote work-life balance, her moves are designed to minimise any adverse impact on the economy.
The Trades Union Congress said the penalties should be greater: "Eight weeks' pay is not a sufficient deterrent for the minority of employers who aren't going to take this seriously," it said.