Hannah Martin was an award-winning copywriter when she left work to have her first child. Six months after returning from maternity leave, she had been made redundant.

“A younger guy wanted my job and was prepared to work more hours than I was able to for half the money,” says the mother-of-two from Worthing.

“All the promises my boss had made about flexible working had come to nothing and I was left with little choice but to pack up my desk.”

That was nearly ten years ago but her experience remains a worryingly familiar one.

Earlier this year, a poll by law firm Slater & Gordon claimed one in seven women had lost their jobs while on maternity leave, 40% said their jobs had changed by the time they returned and half reported a cut in hours or demotion.

“A lot of companies aren’t that great at dealing with mothers returning to work. Offices can be rather male environments where you only get on if you can slot back in without causing any bother and can work conventional hours.

“Employers often seem to look at us as a problem without recognising the additional skills we bring; as a mum you quickly become very good at time-management, prioritising and negotiation. Yes, we might have to leave work earlier but that often acts as added incentive to be productive.”

Dismayed by the lack of advice and support available for working mothers like herself, Martin and her friend Kary Fisher, a graphic designer and mother to four-year-old Amelie, have teamed up to launch the Talented Ladies Club, an online resource that offers tips, inspirational stories and networking opportunities for mums trying to negotiate this tricky area.

“I kept meeting a lot of talented women whose careers were going to waste against their will. There were mums at my son’s school who’d been lawyers and were now looking for part-time admin work just because it was the only thing that might fit around the kids.

“We’d all worked hard to achieve what we have and it seemed desperately unfair to have to give it all up just because we were now mums. It can seem that the only way to succeed in your career is to put your kids second. I wanted to find a way to help women succeed but on their own terms.”

The magazine-style site offers information on a broad range of topics – from starting your own business to childcare options, legal advice to tips on what to wear when returning to work after months spent in old T-shirts and tracksuit trousers.

There are diaries by mothers returning to their former workplaces, practical advice on how to achieve your goals and reallife stories of how different women have managed to strike that elusive work-life balance.

“I’m really inspired by people who have been here and succeeded,” says Martin, who now enjoys a freelance career that sits alongside being a mother to Ollie, 10, and Mimi, 4.

“When I went freelance, I received little guidance and it was a scary decision. But once you’ve done it, you know it’s possible and can hopefully help others to make the best decision for them.”

Martin and Fisher hope their online community will unite new mothers and perhaps help them form working relationships like their own. “I couldn’t do the site without Kary. She has design skills where I only have editorial skills. But similarly, she couldn’t do it without me.

“We hope the site will help women find other women with skills complementary to their own so they can perhaps work together. We’d also like to work directly with recruitment companies who specialise in creating roles for women based around flexible hours, and to work with more traditional employers to help them find ways to make work fit around working mums.”

* To find out more, visit www.talentedladiesclub.com.