Work absense costs on the rise

A joint survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and insurer AXA shows that work absence cost employers £495 per employee in 2004, up from £475 in last year's survey. The overall cost to the economy rose from £11.6 billion in the previous survey.

Up to 14%, or 23 million, of these days lost to absence were a result of staff 'pulling sickies', it said. Three-quarters of firms believed that some employees take long weekends by dishonestly calling in sick. Some 74% said there was a link between their workers' patterns of absence and the unauthorised weekend extensions.

"Employees understand that staff are not invincible," said John Cridland, deputy director-general of the CBI. But he added that: "There are some employees out there who will gladly award themselves a day off when they are in good health at the expense of their employers and hard-working colleagues."

Others, however, have said that business leaders concerned about absence are 'missing the point'.

Businesses should address the root causes of sickness absence, whether that means re-organising work, redesigning jobs or raising management standards, he added.