Instead of adopting "overzealous" absence management methods, employers should focus their energy on tackling serious sickness problems, it has been suggested.

According to a survey by AXA PPP healthcare, almost three quarters of Brits have gone to work feeling ill when they could have stayed at home.

While 29 per cent have done so because they did not want to let down their colleagues, 15 per cent said they were concerned about the impact it would have on their sick record.

AXA spokesperson Dudley Lusted said employers should not make their employees feel forced to attend work when they are genuinely unwell.

Rather, they should concentrate on employees whose attendance records give "genuine" cause for concern and those whose illnesses put them at risk of long-term absence.

"Back pain and other musculoskeletal problems and psychological problems such as stress, anxiety and depression are the problems that should be setting off alarm bells," he remarked.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, sickness absence costs the UK economy over £12 billion a year.