Now both parents in the UK can share leave following the birth or adoption of their child after a new rule came into effect, benefiting some 2.85 lakh working couples.
Aside from an initial two weeks of maternity leave for the mother, up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared between parents.
The rules mean that parents can also take time off at the same time to look after a newborn.
The changes were pushed for by the Liberal Democrats whilst in coalition government.
About 285,000 working couples across the UK would be eligible to share leave under the new rules, the government has said.
The pattern of leave must be agreed between the employee and employer with eight weeks’ notice.
Previously, fathers were entitled to one or two weeks paid ordinary paternity leave, or up to 26 weeks’ paid additional paternity leave – but only if the mother or co-adopter returned to work.
UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said the rights would allow men to become more hands-on fathers and stop women feeling they have to choose between a career or a baby.
Clegg said: “To build a fairer society, the Liberal Democrats want to tear down the barriers that stop people reaching their full potential.
“For too long, mums have been told their place is at home with their child, while dads return to work. I want parents to choose for themselves how to balance work and family.”
Shared parental leave is now open to parents whose baby is due, or who have a child matched or placed for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015.
It must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday, or within one year of adoption.