Absence from work equated to 2.8% of working time in 2010, or the equivalent of an average of 6.5 days per employee at a cost of £553 per head, according to research from online HR intelligence source XpertHR.
The analysis of data gathered from 245 employers reported a median percentage of working time lost to absence of 2.4% in service-based private sector firms.
This rose to 2.7% among manufacturing and production companies, compared with 3.5% in the public sector.
While the discrepancy between sickness absence levels in the public sector compared with the private sector was a well-established theme in most sickness absence surveys, absence within the public sector had been on a downward trend since 2006, it added.
Organisation size also had a bearing on absence levels, with the general assumption being that the smaller the organisation, the lower the absence rate. The median percentage of working time lost to absence in organisations with up to 249 staff in 2010 was 2.2%.
Another survey by health insurer Aviva Health (UK), released in July 2011, shows that long-term absence is an issue for more than two-thirds of employers (69%) and has an impact on staff in general. Nearly a quarter of employees say it is no fun working for a company where colleagues go off on long-term sick leave; 22% feel annoyed and overworked when colleagues are absent.