While there have been some big improvements to the way in which employers approach childbirth and maternity leave, some are still "childbirth-unfriendly", the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has claimed.

Under legislation introduced last April, women are entitled to take statutory maternity leave for up to 52 weeks and receive maternity pay for 39 weeks, providing they have been in continuous employment for 26 weeks prior to going on leave.

RCM spokesperson Mervi Jokinen said: "Some employers are very good already in terms of the HR arrangements that they have and in terms of maternity leave allocation."

However she suggested that a number of companies are less cooperative when it comes to childbirth, so the new legislation has helped "in terms of new mothers not being penalised".

Earlier this month, the chief executive of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission suggested that extended maternity rights were damaging women’s career prospects because they may discourage employers from recruiting women of child bearing age.