UK employees took 35 million sickies last year

British workers take more falsely claimed sick days than almost any other major European country, costing employers millions, new research has shown.

The poll, from Aon Consulting, found that UK employees took more than 35 million “sickies” last year, which is the equivalent of every worker taking at least one day off.

The survey questioned 7,500 employees from across 10 European countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

Across Europe more than 800 million genuine sick days are taken each year, with more than one in five of them being taken in the UK. But an even greater proportion of British workers (one in four) accounts for the 122 million ‘sickies’ pulled across Europe each year.

UK men are the biggest culprits of taking a “personal day” with 25% having cited a personal issue as the reason for their last day off work compared with just 18% of women.

When asked why they had taken their most recent day off work, only half of all employees taking sick days said it was for “a genuine physical or mental illness”. The rest admitted to faking an illness in order to look after another family member like a young child or elderly parent.

The poll also found that British workers are more than four times as likely to feign illness to get time off work compared with Europe’s most honest workforce, the Danish. Just 4% of Danes took their last sick day for a fabricated illness compared with 21% of Brits.

Sickies also tend to be more likely on a Friday or a Monday, or the first day workers are due back from holiday.

Peter Abelskamp, director of health and benefits at Aon Consulting, said: “Over 35 million days taken as fictitious sick leave is costing the UK economy millions. These are probably conservative figures, considering the number of people who don’t admit to faking sickness.

“Employers would be well advised to tackle the issues of sickness and workplace absence head on, as these seriously impact efficiency and hit their balance sheets.”

Research by the CBI in June 2010 found the recession had led to the lowest sickness absence levels on record, but this was still costing business £16.8 billion a year.

Employees were found to have taken on average 6.4 days off sick last year, which amounted to 180 million lost working days.

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