Sickness absences grew in 2010 despite government efforts to replace sick notes with 'fit notes', according to research.
The CBI reported that the British economy lost 190 million working days to absence in 2010, each employee having an average of 6.5 days off sick.
This rate was slightly higher than in 2009 when employees average 6.4 sick days, the lowest rate since the survey started in 1987.
Experts believe the 190 million days cost employers around £17bn, with over £2.7bn for 30.4 million days of non-genuine absences. But even though there was strong support for the fit note initiative, businesses said they were disappointed with its effect so far.
Around two thirds of those asked said it had not helped their rehabilitation policy, while 71% were not confident that GPs were viewing the fit note differently from the old sick note system.
CBI Chief Policy Director Katja Hall said the gap between the best and worst organisations had widened. The study said public sector workers took more sick days than those in private firms at an average of 8.1 days a year compared with 5.9 days, an improvement on last year's 8.3 days, and long-term absence accounted for a third of time lost to sickness.