Lack of support can leave women "faced with the feeling like they're not enough at either home or work" and prone to dropping out, says Chivers. "These are women who know they can deliver great things at work and raise happy, normal kids if only their and their partners' employers would trust them enough to crack on in flexible fashion."
For 4 weeks I had no job to go to or even think about; and no babies yet. For the first time, probably since I was at university, I was completely free to do what I wanted for days on end. Of course, what I wanted most of all was to sit on the sofa like a beached whale - I was huge and had no energy. But still, the feeling of freedom was starting to take hold.
I have seen returning mothers, particularly in the City, feeling very vulnerable about their positions, especially when management changes while they were away. They feel as if their track record has been effectively wiped out. Managers have also become risk averse when putting together their teams.
I believe having a baby is a luxury in the current economic climate and SMEs should not be expected to foot the bill. Maternity leave was designed for large corporate firms. It can have a devastating impact on an SME. If you only employ three or four people and one of them goes on maternity leave, it can cripple your business. I am calling on the government to look at the way it legislates for maternity leave and to recognise that we are not all multinational corporates.
What have we learnt from programmes like The Apprentice? Perhaps it's that 100% is no longer enough and only at least 5556.7% will do? Or, how about the fact that a grey shiny suit always seems to be the right "executive" look? These life lessons aside, it may come as a surprise to learn that one of the biggest gifts programmes like The Apprentice have left us with is that it's okay to be a bit Machiavellian in life. And we're being so more and more especially when it comes to maternity leave.