Small to medium businesses need an "enormous amount of government support" so they can afford to help female staff members through maternity leave, said writer Liz Fraser.
Her call was echoed by beauty business owner, Rachel Carr, who wanted more legislation to "protect" businesses.
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More is needed to help overcome poverty and inequality in New Orleans, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area, Obama has said.
WARNING: Some people may find images upsetting.
Hundreds of people are feared to have drowned after a boat packed with migrants sank off the coast of Libya, trapping many in the hold.