THE Coalition will today reject the "political correctness" of Brussels seeking to force companies to put women on their boards and insist the key to helping women in the workplace is removing barriers to promotion.

Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary who is also the Women's and Equalities Minister, will highlight new figures which show that the voluntary approach is working: in the past six months women have made up 44% of FTSE-100 board appointments. She will say: "It is absolutely essential we maximise the contribution women can make to our economy, not because of political correctness but because of economic reality. Now more than ever, we need to remove barriers to the workplace.

"The way to do this is not through special treatment or regulation like the European Commission's quotas idea, which patronises women and undermines the business case. It is about removing the barriers to achieving their goals so women are supported from the shop floor to the boardroom."

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It comes after the UK Government announced changes to parental leave and flexible working. Parents would be able to share up to a year's leave to look after newborn children. The right to request flexible working would be extended to all employees to encourage different work patterns for parents.

Parents would also be able to divide parental leave between them or take time off together, as long as no more than 12 months is taken in total.