The economic downturn has contributed to a 10 per cent drop in absence levels as employees increasingly fear the threat of redundancy.
Employee Absence 2003, a survey of more than 1,300 HR practitioners by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), shows a fall from an average of 10 to nine days per person.
Mike Emmott, the CIPD's head of employee relations said: "The biggest single influence on absence levels is management action. However, where employees feel more insecure, this can also have an effect."
Stress is still the most common cause of long-term sickness absence among non-manual workers and is alarmingly high in the public sector, with almost 60 per cent of organisations citing it as the main cause.
Less than 30 per cent of private sector organisations regard stress as the major cause of long-term absenteeism.
The survey shows that three-quarters of organisations believe minor illnesses, such as colds and flu, are the most common causes of absence, compared with just over half last year.
The research also shows that 38 per cent of NHS workers and 30 per cent of local government workers find their work either 'stressful' or 'very stressful' against an average of 25 per cent for all workers.