Most employers are making an effort to manage sickness absence, IPD research shows.
Of companies with more than 2,000 employees, 91 per cent have an absence policy, according to the institute’s first sickness absence survey, published last week.
The return-to-work interview was seen as a particularly useful tool, used by eight out of 10 respondents.
Just under half of organisations train managers in handling absence, a third provide counselling services for staff.
Other measures used include health promotion programmes, adopted by one in three employers, and rehabilitation programmes provided by a quarter. One in 10 offer staff physiotherapy sessions.
A third of respondents said allowing staff to work flexibly had reduced absence.
The survey of 1,684 organisations, employing just under two million people concluded that a third of sick days are taken by staff who are not genuinely ill. This accounted for three days per employee at a cost to the economy of £4bn.
The survey put the average sickness rate at 9.3 days, though it was higher in larger organisations, the NHS and the food, drink and tobacco industry.
However, a third of employers said their absence level has decreased in the past two years compared with one in five who said it had increased.
“Organisations with poor management, low morale and increased work pressures will see employees take increasing amounts of time off as sick leave,” said Diane Sinclair, IPD adviser in employment relations. “Employers need to focus on people management and development strategies.”