Britain is not a nation of malingerers or shirkers, contrary to the impression given by some politicians and sections of the media, according to the TUC.
A report, Sicknote Britain?, by the union body has suggested that British workers are in fact less likely to take short term time off sick than in any other European country apart from Denmark.
Just Austria, Germany and Ireland lose less working time because of long-term absence, it argued.
And public sector employees, long argued to be more prone to sickness than their private sector counterparts, are actually off sick less than private sector workers, it said.
What’s more, the number of people on Incapacity Benefit, rather than soaring, is on the decrease.
A majority of employers accept that most staff time taken off ill from work is because of genuine sickness.
And a bigger problem is the high number of workers - 75 per cent - who confess to having struggled into work when they were actually too ill to do so, said the TUC.
Employers that are serious about reducing levels of sickness absence should be looking at ways of making work more flexible and introducing elements of greater work/life balance into workers’ daily routine, the TUC argued.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Sicknote Britain is an urban myth. We take less time off than most other countries, and public sector staff are less likely to take time off for a short term illness. When employers complain of sicknote Britain, they are attacking some of Europe’s most loyal employees.
”And those who’ve been trying to make cheap political points about getting tough with the ‘work-shy spongers’ are completely missing the point. People on Incapacity Benefit have very genuine problems which make it very difficult for them to take the majority of jobs on offer,” he added.