A consultation has been launched into the planning of flexible parental leave with the government, claiming regulations are too rigid as they stand.
After the early weeks of leave are over, parents will have the ability to share the overall allowance between them under the new proposals. If changes are introduced as planned from 2015, leave could also be taken in 'blocks', and both parents could take leave at the same time.
Industry chiefs have raised concerns about the prospect of parental leave periods being extended by another four weeks, although ministers rebutted this by saying the rules as they stand reflect outdated notions of family responsibilities and actually lead to restrictions for employers.
Under the Modern Workplace plans, employers will be able to ask staff to return for short periods to meet demand or to ensure that leave is taken in one continuous block if no agreement can be reached.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "Our proposals will encourage greater choice by giving employees and their employers the flexibility to find arrangements to suit them both.
"Of course, I'm mindful of the need to minimise the costs, bureaucracy and complexities on businesses, so we will ensure that businesses will still be able to take into account their needs when agreeing how leave can be taken."
However, the Federation of Small Businesses warned that small firms will be badly affected by the chances, which could over-complicate the parental leave system.
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