Absence of UK employees has had a significant impact on the UK economy, according to new figures.

Produced by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and AXA, the research suggests that a total of £13.2 billion was lost during 2007 as a result of workers taking time off.

Meanwhile, it was also found that the difference between absence rates in the public and private sectors hit a record level, with public sector staff taking an average of nine days off, compared to 5.8 days in private industry.

"Everyone agrees that sick people need time off work. But employers face two serious and expensive challenges – dealing with bogus sick days and helping those with long-term illness return to work when they are fit to do so," stated Susan Anderson, CBI director of HR policy.

She added that employees who awarded themselves "sickies" in order to enjoy nice weather or extend a holiday are "acting unfairly" and causing problems for colleagues, as well as costing the UK.

According to research conducted recently by PricewaterhouseCoopers, companies can boost their performance – and potentially cut down on staff absences – by using tools to measure how engaged their workforce is.