Absences from work account for £18bn in lost productivity every year, according to the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) – a figure which could swell to £26bn by 2030.
Britons are also taking more days off work since 2011, reversing the declining trend from 1993 until that point, City AM reports.
During the same period, unemployment peaked in late 2011 at 8.6 per cent, as the effects of the financial crisis reached their peak – and the report points to a 19 per cent rise in part-time working since 2009.
The increase in absence have been driven by a 71.9 per cent surge in mental health issues, with people in their 30s hit the hardest. A separate survey by Legal and General found less than one in 10 employees would feel comfortable discussing their mental health with a manager.
The report links mental health issues to the demands of bringing up a family, with rises during the summer and Christmas holidays.
Meanwhile the ageing population could also be contributing to the rise, as older employees take significantly more time off work. Musculoskeletal issues – such as the perennial bad back – are the single biggest reason for people to take time off work, the report finds, with a 25 per cent increase in the number of days taken off to recover from surgery.
However, there has been no change to the number of people taking a day off because of common ailments such as a cold or flu.
David Hope, chief executive of FirstCare, which commissioned the study and contributed data, said: “A reduction of 21.2 per cent to the level of absence in the UK, the average that organisations included in this report have achieved, would result in nearly £4bn worth of productivity gains to the UK economy.”