Irish employees have blamed alcohol for 4 percent of sick days claimed by their staff members, a new survey by employer’s group IBEC has shown.

The findings show that on average workers miss almost six days of work a year at a cost of over $2 billion (€1.5 billion) to businesses.

The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) study focused on 2009 absentee levels and showed that the economic downturn had led to a slight decline in the number of days employees missed work.

Larger organizations reported more sick days, with sickness being reported as the most common cause.

The report focused on 635 companies, who employ more than 110,000 employees.

Speaking about the results, Brendan Butler, IBEC policy director, said there improvements needed to be made.

"The recession appears to have led to a reduced level of absenteeism, however it remains a serious social and economic issue," Butler said.

"Besides its obvious impact on particular workplaces, absence affects the wider economy through loss of potential output and the increased spend on social security.
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"While not all absence can be eliminated, there is significant room for improvement."

Findings of the report “The Employee Absenteeism — A Guide to Managing Absence” included:
Employees missed 5.98 days on average, an absence rate of 2.58%, compared to 3.38% in the last survey in 2004. Every year, 11 million days were lost to absenteeism.

 -Absence levels were higher in large organisations — 3.58% for companies employing over 500 employees, versus 2.17% for companies with fewer than 50 employees.

- The main cause of short-term absence was minor illness.

-4% of companies cited alcohol and alcohol-related illness as being a leading cause of short-term absence for men, while the figure was 1% for women.

-Call centers recorded the highest absence rate at 3.67%, while software companies had the lowest rate at 1.56%.