The Prison Service should consider stopping sick pay for its staff in a bid to improve "unacceptable" levels of absenteeism, MPs have said.
The all-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the radical move could save some of the £80m that sick leave costs prisons in England and Wales.
In 2002-2003, Prison Service employees took 668,337 days off sick - equivalent to an entire year's work for 3,000 full-time staff.
Staff at three institutions took more than 20 days off sick annually, based on 2004 data, the PAC report said.
In 2002-03, the average was 14.7 days, with more than a fifth of staff taking 11 days or more a year. However, this had improved to 13.3 days in 2003-04.
The latest figures from Confederation of British Industry give averages for the private sector as 6.9 days and the public sector as 8.9 days a year.
The PAC report said: "The Prison Service should consider the costs and benefits of not paying staff for the first three days of any period of sickness absence, in line with the approach used by private sector prisons to manage sickness absence."