Have you ever taken a sickie when things have got on top of you?

I'm not talking about single people taking Monday off after a weekend of partying but ringing in to say you're sick rather than admit your childcare has broken down or you have a hospital appointment.

Both these are perfectly reasonable explanations for absence but many parents would rather walk barefoot on burning coals than voice them.

Why? Well, no one wants to give the impression that they can't cope or that they're unreliable, particularly working parents, who set up sophisticated systems for balancing home and work and then feel guilty when they break down.

But perpetuating this subterfuge merely prevents us from tackling the underlying issues. And they are undeniable.

In 1998, there were 9.7 million working parents in this country. Think how many more there must be now.

Last year, another survey found both partners now work in two-thirds of families with children.

And that doesn't even take into account the other end of the caring spectrum: that one-in-six adults is now responsible for an elderly person.

So, why do we all, employers and employees alike, pretend everything is under control?

For employers, the concern is that addressing these issues will be prohibitively expensive.

But not tackling them can cost as much, if not more.

Losing a talented member of staff can be a disaster and also lead to a recruitment bill of up to one-and-a-half times the annual salary.

Yet, some of the work-life balance practices can be surprisingly reasonable, even if you don't take into account the impact of increased loyalty on performance at work.

Access to up-to-date childcare information, for example, is one of the simplest and cheapest routes and Kites can provide this at low cost directly to employers, who can then pass it to staff, perhaps with their payslips.

There are many other innovations employers can discuss with staff, ranging from flexi-time, through home-working or termtime working to annualised hours with an agreed number of days for family emergencies.

More and more employers, including East Sussex County Council, have introduced a mix of these, which makes it easier to attract and retain staff in a competitive environment.

In other words, they are finding that flexibility is very much in the employer's interest.

If you are looking for a way of raising the issue with your employer in a non threatening way, a useful prompt would be Balancing Work And Life, a free guide available from East Sussex Early Years Development & Childcare Partnership.

It provides an overview of work-life balance and useful insights into how employers in East Sussex have implemented them.

Unless you, as a working parent, bite the bullet and raise the topic, nothing will change.

Yes, it is difficult, but, if you genuinely believe you make a contribution to the organisation you work for, then your employer will listen.