Businesses believe that malingering workers are costing them billions of pounds a year, a new report says.
Employers think that one in three days taken as sick leave has nothing to do with ill health. Employees calling in sick because of problems with their home life or with minor complaints such as headaches or colds cost British industry about £4bn a year, the Institute of Personnel and Development study says.
On average, a worker in Britain takes just over nine days off a year because of illness - but, according to the survey, employers believe three of these days should not be classed as sick leave. The total bill to business for sickness absence is £13bn.
The most common reasons given for time off work due to sickness are stress and minor complaints such as colds or headaches. Changes in workforce morale and workload are also cited by employers as reasons for absence.
Diane Sinclair, a spokeswoman for the IPD, says: "With around one sick-leave day in every three being taken for reasons other than illness, employers clearly need to focus on people management and development strategies in order to tackle absence.
"Organisations which have poor management, low morale and increased work pressures will see their employees take increasing amounts of time off as sick leave."
The institute surveyed 1,684 firms employing almost 2 million people.
The findings show levels of sick leave are highest in large organisations, especially the National Health Service and firms involved in food, drink and tobacco.
But one in three employers says the level of absence in their organisations has decreased over the past two years. Only one in every five employers says the level had risen.
Many organisations are tackling the problem of staff sickness with workplace initiatives such as return-to-work interviews. Other initiatives cited by the survey included health-promotion programmes, physiotherapy programmes and stress counselling.