New mothers could face a big pay cut under the government's proposed overhaul of maternity pay, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned.
The national trade union body said that half of all working mothers could be affected, while employers would also be free to withdraw family-friendly practices such as flexible working hours.
The TUC voiced its opposition to the plans in its response to a government consultation on proposals to allow mothers and fathers to share their overall leave allowance between them, once the early weeks of maternity and paternity leave have ended.
Employers have also spoken out against the changes, which would come into effect in 2015.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "The government needs to steer clear of such large reductions in the designated period of maternity leave, as it could effectively lead to a huge pay cut for new mothers who currently benefit from contractual maternity pay."