Employee absence has gone up to a median of 6.6 days per employee, rising to 9.1 days in the public sector, according to data from XpertHR.
This means employers are losing a median 2.9% of working time to absence, XpertHR found, and the problem is more pronounced in larger organisations.
Employers with more than 1,000 staff lost 3.8% of working time, or 8.8 days per employee, compared to just 1.8% for those with fewer than 100 employees.
These figures, from the 2016 calendar year, mark a slight rise since the 2015 data was collected, showing 2.6% of working time of 5.8 days per employee lost to absence.
However, 2016’s figures still compare favourably to data from 2006, when absence cost 3.5% of working time, or 8 days per employee.
Providing cover for absent employees represents a significant cost for employers, who estimate the cost to be £455 per employee per year, according to XpertHR.
However, many employers focus on the cost of paying sick pay for absent employees and this does not include factors such as the cost of cover, reduced performance or service, or missed business opportunities, which could make the ultimate cost significantly higher.
Sheila Attwood, XpertHR managing editor for pay and HR practice said: “High levels of employee sickness absence represent a significant financial cost to the business, and can have an impact on its operations and the wellbeing of those having to cover for absent colleagues. Employers should use the data they collect on absence rates to be proactive in effectively managing absence in their organisation.”