Working parents are set to gain a host of improved rights, including extended maternity leave and the right to transfer a proportion of their maternity rights to fathers under new plans published by the DTI.
Trade secretary Patricia Hewitt announced proposals that would see working mothers get an extra three months maternity leave by 2007, as well the right to transfer a portion of their pay and leave to fathers during the first year of caring for a child (see page 12).
The government then hopes to increase the period of maternity and adoption pay by another three months, so that new mothers get one year's paid leave by the end of the next Parliament.
Hewitt will also consider extending the right to request flexible working conditions to include the parents of older children and employees who act as carers for adults.
Rebecca Clake, organisation and resourcing adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said more work needed to be done on promoting the business case of family-friendly working.
"There is a danger that further extension of statutory provisions alone could contribute to increased discrimination unless they are accompanied by efforts to educate employers on the business case," she said.
She also warned the right to swap leave between partners could be ineffective because the final rate of pay had a major impact on whether fathers take paternity leave - with fewer than half willing to take time off at the current rate.
The Institute of Directors warned the increases could cause problems for smaller businesses, but welcomed other moves designed to simplify the payment process through the Inland Revenue.