The lowest number of sick days on record - an average of six and a half days per person - was seen last year, research by the CBI has found.
A total of 180 million sick days were recorded last year, averaging 6.4 days each person, down from 6.7 in 2007. This is the lowest since the CBI began maintaining records in 1987.
These sick days cost employers around £16.8 billion last year, in addition to indirect costs like delays to teamwork and reductions in customer service.
The number of "sickies" in the public sector was "significantly higher" than those in the private sector, with a public sector worker taking an average of 8.3 days off last year compared with the figure of 5.8 days in the private sector.
Katja Hall, the CBI's director of employment policy, said: "Although the rate of employee absence has fallen in the public sector, it is still a lot higher than in the private sector, and this issue should be addressed. We estimate that £5.5 billion could be saved by 2015-16 if the public sector matched the private sector's absence rate."