Proposed flexible leave reforms will give new mothers the opportunity to return to work two weeks after childbirth and share the rest of their maternity leave with their partner.
From 2015, a fully flexible system of parental leave in England, Scotland and Wales will give women a clearer "route back" to work, the government hopes.
Parents will gain a legal right to request flexible working hours, and also to take time off together.
At the moment, new mothers can take a maximum of 52 weeks of leave after the birth of their child.
Fathers are entitled to two weeks' statutory paternity leave of their own, and since April last year they have been able to take additional leave after 20 weeks.
Under the proposed reforms, they may be able to take more time off to spend with their young child - allowing their partner to return to work.
Clegg says new system needed
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the current flexible leave rules and arrangement are "clapped out".
"We, as a society, we have got so much better at telling young women: the sky’s the limit. Get a job; be independent; be the boss; run as far and as fast as your talents can take you," he stated.
"Then, suddenly, when women hit their late 20s, their early thirties - despite all their earlier momentum, despite all the endless possibility - they are suddenly stopped in their tracks."
Mr Clegg said the moment women start a family, their options begin to narrow.
"It's heart-breaking to watch women lower their ambitions for themselves. Equality’s promise must not end at 30," he stated.
Making the reforms work
Katja Hall, chief policy director at the Confederation of British Industry, commented that flexible parental leave is "a good way to support working families".
"Businesses realise that this is good for retaining talent," she stated.
"We must ensure the new system is simple to administer, and does not give rise to legal action from fathers seeking parental rights that mirror those available to mothers."
Ms Hall said companies support the right of all staff to request flexible working, but they must be able to decide each case on its merits.
In some circumstances, it may not be practical for all employees to request additional time off, she added.
Posted by Dan Smith