Some of the progress made in recent years in reducing workplace absence stalled last year, with absence from work largely unchanged on 2010, latest research from Occupational Health's sister resource XpertHR has concluded.
The annual survey of absence rates and costs, based on feedback from 343 employers, found that the average absence rate in the UK was 2.8% of working time in 2011, or a median of 2.5%.
However, despite the lack of progress last year, the general trend is still in the right direction, with levels down on the 3.2% of working time lost to absence recorded in 2007.
The cost of sickness absence in the UK in 2011 amounted to £535 per employee as a median, rising to £618 as an average, the survey added.
While the public sector still reported higher levels of sickness absence than the private sector, there was a slight narrowing of the absence gap between these two broad sectors in the latest poll.
In the 2011 survey, the median percentage of working time represented by absences in private-sector services was 2.4% compared with 3.5% in the public sector, a gap of 1.1 percentage point.
In this year's poll, a median of 2.3% of working time was lost to absence in private-sector services compared with 3.1% in the public sector, representing a 0.8 percentage point gap, it said.
However, the long-term trend of larger organisations typically experiencing higher absence rates was continuing.
The median percentage of working time represented by absences in organisations with up to 249 staff in 2011 was 2.1%.
This compared with 2.6% in large organisations with between 250 and 999 staff and 3.1% in very large organisations with 1,000 or more employees, it added.