Workers are being urged to start talking to their employers about new rights on the sharing of parental leave, due to come into force in the coming weeks.
Parents with a baby due on or after April 5 can start sharing up to 50 weeks of leave, with around 285,000 working couples expected to be eligible every year.
Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said: “Shared parental leave will kick-start a change where fathers feel empowered to take time off to look after their kids and not feel constrained by outdated stereotypes.
“We recognise that this isn’t going to be easy for those at the forefront of the change but we also know that for many dads the nerves they feel about having a conversation with their boss around leave will be worth it in the end.
“Countless research studies show that more time with dads early on leads to better outcomes for children, not to mention the special family bond it creates. We also know that many employers are incredibly supportive and keen to offer mums and dads more flexibility.
“Employers will see the benefit in terms of staff loyalty and providing women the option to return to work earlier.”
Parents and adoptive couples where one has been employed for at least the last six months and the other is, or has recently been, employed or self-employed, are eligible under the scheme.
Maternity pay for eligible employees can be paid for up to 39 weeks, usually at 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, and £138.18, or average weekly earnings - whichever is lower - for the remaining 33 weeks.