Workers taking fewer days off sick

The amount of time lost through sickness absence has fallen to less than 3% after a "slow but sure" decline in the figures, new research has revealed.

Employees took an average of just over six days off sick last year, equivalent to 2.8% of working time, compared with 3.6% in 2007.

There were lower absence rates in London and the South East - 5.3 days - while the highest figure, 6.5 days, was in Wales.

The study of 120 organisations by information firm XpertHR found higher levels of sickness absence in the public sector than in private firms.

The report's author, Rachel Suff, said: "Reducing sickness absence levels, particularly in the public sector, has been a key public policy imperative in the UK for some years.

"Figures show a slow but sure year-on-year decline in overall absence levels across all employers over the past five years, including the public sector. The difference is that the public sector's drop has come from a higher starting point."

A TUC spokesman said: "The average number of days lost to workplace ill-health has been falling for over a decade as a result of employers better managing sickness absence and increased presenteeism, which has been made worse by rising job insecurity as a result of the recession.

"It is important that employers do not treat every instance of sickness absence as avoidable and potentially bogus.

"Good employers allow their staff to recover and support them when they are off, rather than forcing them back while they are still ill.

"This negative attitude can prolong illness, spread diseases and cause stress throughout the workplace."