Fathers will be able to take the majority of the first year of a baby's life off work if the mother goes back to work under new coalition proposals, it has been reported.
Under plans to be legislated for next year, if a mother is the family's main breadwinner, she can go back to work after two weeks and the father can claim under "flexible parental leave", the Daily Telegraph said.
Implementation of the scheme will not take place until October 2015 following a disagreement in Cabinet over the impact on business, the paper said.
A Government source told the Telegraph: "This is being introduced slowly and with great care to ensure that it does not undermine business during the difficult economic times.
"But it was a coalition pledge and it is important to both the Prime Minister and the Liberal Democrats that both parents should be supported to spend time with their new children."
Under the current system, mothers are legally entitled to 90% of their earnings for the first six weeks after birth. They can then receive a maternity allowance - equivalent to either 90% of earnings or £135.45 a week, whichever is the lowest - for an additional 33 weeks. Some employers offer more generous terms.
Fathers are entitled to two weeks of paternity leave and mothers can transfer their leave to their partners after the first six months.
The new system will mean that either the mother or father can claim parental leave and the allowance after two weeks.
The source added: "This has taken a long time to develop as the system has to be robust enough to prevent fraud, with both parents claiming.
"It was decided to keep the current default system of assistance being given to women. There are also other safeguards to prevent vulnerable mothers, or those in families which do not function well, from losing their entitlements. Absent fathers will not benefit."