Employers have raised concerns about the government’s parental leave Green Paper, even though it contained some concessions to business.
The Green Paper stipulates parents would have the right to work reduced hours for as long as they wish when the maternity period ends.
John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general said: "The government has recognised that business needs help providing flexible employment, but should avoid using employment legislation to achieve this."
Under the new proposals all employers have the right to refuse a request if it would harm the business.
A spokesman for the Industrial Society said: "The rights of parents at work in the UK still lag far behind those in European countries and this initiative will go some way towards redressing the balance."
Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "We urge the government to take the lead in a discussion with employers exploring the best way to make flexible working more widely available to all employees while also accommodating the needs of employers."
By Richard Staines