Hundreds of thousands more mums and dads will be entitled to request flexible working conditions, and new dads will be allowed up to six months off, under government plans to implement new parental rights.
Ministers have announced that parents will be entitled to ask their employers for flexibility until their child is 18. Currently, only parents with children under 16 have this right.
They believe that the new plans will benefit up to 300,000 people, who may be able to change their hours, work from home, or shift to part-time hours.
The new measures are being taken despite concerns from business leaders. The guidelines state that employers must seriously consider flexible working requests for all parents of children up to the age of 18, although they are within their rights to turn them down for sound business reasons.
And later this year, the Coalition will discuss whether to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, regardless of whether they have children. If this move goes ahead, it would enable other carers such as grandparents and neighbours to take a more active role in looking after family and friends.
Liberal Democrat employment relations minister Ed Davey said: 'We want to help parents create a fairer, family-friendly society.
'This immediate change will give parents of all children, regardless of age, the same right to request flexible working. It will also make it simpler for employers and employees to identify whether they are eligible to make a request.'
Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said: 'Companies are missing out on the skills and talents of too many people who are forced to choose between raising a family and having a job, so we will be working with businesses to change this in a way that will make life better for employers, employees and the economy.'
But Abigail Morris, employment adviser at the British Chambers of Commerce, was not as keen to welcome the changes. She said: 'While we appreciate the desire for flexible working to be extended to cover 16 to 18 year olds as soon as possible, this should not be done forsaking better regulatory practice and adding more burdens on employers, who have to familiarise themselves with constantly changing legislation.
Have the government plans gone far enough?
Will you be entitled to request flexible working under these new measures? We want to hear your views.