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False ‘sickies’ cost the economy well over £1.6bn a year

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Falsely-taken sick leave cost the UK economy £1.6bn last year, according to a report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Bosses of UK businesses estimate that up to one in eight staff taking sick leave are not actually sick and that many workers take Monday or Friday off just to get a long weekend.

Overall workplace absence, including genuine illness, cost the economy £13.4bn, the CBI said, with workers taking an average of seven days off sick in 2006.

This figure was half a day more than was taken off in 2005 and was the equivalent of 175 million working days lost to illness.

Public sector workers had the highest average absence at nine days per worker, 44% more than employees in the private sector. The Government has been trying to cut the rate of absenteeism in the civil service, as it is regarded as being too high.

Some workers felt that they had the right to extend weekends or holidays by claiming to be sick, said Susan Anderson, director of human resources policy at the CBI. “As well as the financial burden, this puts pressure on colleagues,” she commented.

“Everybody gets sick and employers must understand that many absences are genuine,” she said. “It is in no-one’s interest if people go in to work when they are genuinely unwell.

“But there is a culture of absenteeism in some workplaces that needs to be addressed.”



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