June 7, 2010 / 12:48 PM / 10 years ago

Hard times -- mortal enemy of the "sickie?"

Construction workers sit amongst the columns of the Bank of England in central London July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

LONDON (Reuters) - British workers took the fewest days off work sick during the height of the recession last year than at any time since the late 1980s, according to employers grouped in the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The CBI said workers took a total of 180 million sick days last year, at an average of 6.4 days each — the lowest since the survey began in 1987. However, those absences cost business 16.8 billion pounds.

Some 15 percent of those sick days probably weren’t genuine and bigger companies had the highest absence rates, the CBI said.

“Unfortunately, bogus sick days remain a problem, and are unfair on hard-working colleagues and employers alike,” said Katja Hall, CBI Director of Employment Policy.

“If absence levels across the board could be reduced by 10 percent, the economy would see annual savings of just under 1.7 billion pounds.”

Workers in the public sector took an average of 8.3 days off sick last year, compared to an average of 5.8 days in the private sector.

Reporting by Matt Falloon, editing by Paul Casciato

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