The Government hopes to grant parents additional choice and flexibility as to how they use maternity and paternity leave before next year's general election.
Currently, employed fathers are entitled to two weeks paid paternity leave and mothers to 52 weeks maternity leave, of which up to 39 weeks are paid. Under the new law, mothers would be able to transfer the final six months of their maternity leave to the father once the mother has returned to work.
Parents will be required to "self certify" by providing details of their eligibility to their employer. Employers and HM Revenue & Customs would both be able to carry out further checks of entitlement if necessary.
Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, said: "The new rights will give families radically more choice and flexibility in how they balance work and care of children, and enable fathers to play a bigger part in bringing up their children."
"Since 1997, we've doubled maternity leave; doubled maternity pay; introduced paternity leave; more than doubled good quality affordable childcare places; and introduced the right to request flexible working," she added.
"This is another family friendly policy."
In order to give employers time to adjust to the new scheme, it will be introduced for children due on or after 3 April 2011. The Government estimates take-up of Additional Paternity Leave will be less than 6% and affect 0.7%, or 1 in every 137, small businesses.
** Additional information & advice **
Depending on your situation, however, it may be better to speak with a solicitor who specialises in employment law. You can be matched with an employment law solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action for your situation and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.