Average worker 'taking 7 sick days per year'
Staff illnesses cost the UK economy £13.2 billion in 2007
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Wednesday, 14, May 2008 12:01
A recent survey into employee illness rates has revealed that the average UK worker took nearly seven sick days in 2007.
According to the latest CBI/AXA Absence Survey, the UK economy lost £13.2 billion last year as a result of staff sickness, with the gap between the public and private sectors reaching an all-time high.
The average for public-sector workers was nine days - 55 per cent higher than the 5.8 day average of a private-sector worker.
The survey also showed that the private sector has improved its staff sickness rates compared to previous years, while the public sector remained much the same.
It was also noted that more than one in ten sick days are thought to have been non-genuine, with the majority of employers believing their staff use sick days to extend weekends, holidays or to attend special events such as important sporting occasions or birthdays.
CBI's director of HR policy Susan Anderson said: "Everyone agrees that sick people need time off work.
"But employers face two serious and expensive challenges - dealing with bogus sick days, and helping those with long-term illness return to work when they are fit to do so.
"People who awarded themselves sickies to enjoy the recent sunny weather or to extend a weekend away are acting unfairly, leaving their colleagues to pick up their work, and costing taxpayers and employers over a billion pounds a year."
Ms Anderson said firms could avoid problems with long-term absences by offering "flexible working options" and "a fresh, proactive approach to managing long-term absence".
"Those with long-term illnesses need time to recover - nobody expects anyone to be at the office checking their emails the day after a heart bypass," she continued.
"But in many cases, like those involving stress or back pain, firms that keep in touch with employees and offer flexible working have been successful at reducing long-term absence levels."
Incapacity benefit in the UK currently costs the economy £12.5 billion a year for 2.5 million people.
Meanwhile long-term absences - judged to be 20 days or more - accounted for only five per cent of all absences but around 40 per cent of the total working time lost, at a price of £5.3 billion.