Public and private sector work absences drop to record low

Fewer days are being lost due to absence from work, a recent survey has found.

Businesses will have saved around 3 billion thanks to the drop in the average absence rate from 6.5 days in 2010 to 5.3 days last year.

But the report, Fit for Purpose, found absences from work still cost the economy 14 billion a year, according to statistics from the ONS.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Pfizer Absence and Workplace Health Survey carried out the study which identified mental health conditions as the most widespread cause of long-term absence.

It also found that one-in-eight sick days are taken for non genuine reasons, which cost employers almost 1.8 billion. The study of HR managers at 153 public and private sector organisations, employing 850,000 workers also found that 20% think their employees take a 'sickie' as an occasional perk of the job.

Workers in the private sector take less days off work due to illness ( 4.9 down from 5.9) than staff in the public sector (6.9 down from 8.1).

If the public sector pulled into line with the private sector, a further saving to employers of 1.2 billion could be made, the report claims.

Neil Carberry, CBI director of employment and skills said: "The record low shows employers are getting much better at tackling the root causes of absence. This is down to stronger staff engagement, initiatives to foster employee health and better re-integration plans after longer-term sick leave.

"But there is no room for complacency. Clearly, when staff are sick, they should not be in work, but there's a lot more employers can do to tackle absence at a time when growth is fragile.

"The cost of non-genuine sick days is high and it is worrying that more than one in five employers think staff take paid absence as an occasional perk."

The study also found that around two thirds of employers do not think the new fit note system - where doctors outline what staff can actually do in work - is not being used to its full potential.

Copyright Press Association 2013