IBEC says that absenteeism is costing Irish businesses €1.5 billion a year, or €818 per employee. Its latest comprehensive report shows that a total of 11 million days are lost every year to absenteeism.

The report shows a reduced rate of absenteeism since the last major survey in 2004, but IBEC said there was further scope to cut reduce the rate.

The survey found that workers missed 5.98 days on average a year, giving an absence rate of 2.58%. This was down from the 3.38% rate reported in 2004. Call centres recorded the highest absence rate at 3.67% while software firms had the lowest rate at 1.56%, the survey revealed.

The levels of absenteeism were higher in large organisations while the main cause of short-term absenteeism for both men and women was minor illness.

IBEC's Brendan Butler said the recession appears to have led to a reduced level of absenteeism. But he said the issue affects the wider economy through loss of potential output and the increased spend on social security.

He said that pro-active measures by employers such as holding return to work interviews and putting in place employee health and well-being supports can reduce absenteeism.

The survey is based on data provided by 635 firms, employing over 110,000 people between them. The survey was conducted in 2010.