Another of the proposed changes to employment regulations outlined in the Queen’s speech was the Children and Families Bill, which would allow parents to swap parental leave following the birth of a child and could allow mothers to return to work earlier in maternity leave by transferring any remaining time off to their partners.

Through proposals on flexible parental leave, the Bill aims to give parents more choice and flexibility about how they share the care of their child in the first year, enabling both parents to retain a strong link with the labour market and to find a model of working which best suits their needs and the welfare of the child.

And one of the aims of extending the right to request flexible working hours is to give all employees the confidence to ask their employer for flexible working without fear of detrimental treatment.

However, director general of the British Chamber of Commerce, John Longworth said that proposals to enable mothers to transfer maternity leave to their partners could create “complex new burdens”.

And some experts have criticised the Bill for not being radical enough, as the UK is already behind the rest of Europe in relation to employed parents.  Under European law, parental leave entitlements for both male and female employees are for up to four months for each child, whereas in the UK, parents are given 13 weeks per child.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families said: “We want to see more choice and flexibility for fathers to share the care, and more paternity leave would be a great step forward. But the Government consulted on cutting maternity leave to 18 weeks, which is a step too far. Pushing women back to work too soon will bring hidden costs to employers.”