Employers believe about 12% of absences involve staff 'pulling a sickie', according to the CBI's latest workplace absence survey.
The 'sickies' resulted in a total of 21 million lost days in 2006 at a cost of £1.6bn to the economy.
Overall, absence increased in 2006 as workers took an average of seven days off sick. According to the survey, absent workers, both genuine and suspect, resulted in the loss of 175 million working days.
About 400 employers were questioned in the survey, with 70% saying they felt staff were inclined to create unauthorised long weekends by taking Mondays or
Fridays off sick. Some 68% said there was a link between 'sickies' and holidays, while 39% believed absence was linked to special events such as sporting tournaments.
CBI director of human resources policy Susan Anderson said: "Some degree of short-term absence is inevitable, but there is a lot employers can do to manage it. The best organisations use a carrot and stick approach to reward good attendees and tackle the worst offenders."
Amir Akram owns a Budgens store in Tonteg, Glamorgan. He says he had to put up with a lot of 'sickies' before the store joined the symbol group. "It used to affect us a lot more before we joined Budgens, but now we're a lot more organised and our staff know that they won't get away with it," he explained.
"We used to get all kinds of excuses, especially at the weekend when staff had been on a big night out. Our staff are a lot more professional now, though."