New shared parental leave legislation is set to revolutionise the way new mums and dads share childcare for their newborn babies.
"It's steps like this that help normalise dads having a greater role in their children's lives, which is brilliant," says new dad Nic Stevenson, 31, from Fulham.
The new legislation applies to couples with babies due, or children placed for adoption, after April 5 2015.
Nic's son Eddy was born in September 2014, seven months too early for Nic to be eligible for shared parental leave. However, he was able to use existing flexible working arrangements (in which workers have a right to request extended paternity leave) to split the time taken off work to look after Eddy 50/50 with his wife Katy.
"Katy took the first six months and I'm taking the second six," explains Nic. "In practice I'm doing the same as a father will be under the new legislation, but it came down to my employer's discretion whether or not I was allowed to have the time off.
"I'm lucky enough to work in the public sector for the civil aviation authority and flexible working is fairly ingrained in the culture here already.
"So even though I think I'm the first person in the organisation to do the additional paternity leave, I wan't nervous about approaching my boss. Also, I'd mentioned it in passing often enough that when I made the formal request it didn't come as a surprise.
"Everybody at work has been really supportive and we've already talked about development opportunities for when I come back, so it's clear that this isn't going to have a negative impact on my career."
The new shared parental leave legislation safeguards a father's right to take time off to care for a newborn, in the same way as traditional maternity leave.
After an initial two weeks, up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared between the mother and the father. Parents can divide the time between them in any combination that they'd like and can also take time off at the same time as each other.
The pattern of leave must be agreed between the employee and employer with eight weeks' notice.
"When we knew that Katy was pregnant with Eddy we started thinking about how we would like to share the leave," says Nic.
"We decided that the best thing for us and for Eddy would be to split it down the middle, to give him the most time with a parent before he starts nursery and to give him an equal amount of time with both of his parents."
The existing right to statutory maternity pay will be transferred to shared parental leave. Mothers currently receive 90VIRTUAL-DealsCategoryWidgetSlideshow-84565%