Philippa Dickson, managing director of CIGNA Healthcare and Group Life, warned employers that, unless they take staff health more seriously, they may fall foul of the Employers' Liability Act.

Speaking at the IBC's Healthcare Insurance Conference, Dickson said: "Keeping people healthy, happy and at work is a priority for all of us, whether we are employers or insurers. If our people are discontented, or even worse absent from work, we all know the problems that can be caused."

In her attack on current employer standards, Dickson cited a number of statistics showing a high level of absenteeism in the UK. These include:
- The average employee takes around eight and a half sick days each year
- 3.7% of all working time is lost to sickness absence
- The average direct cost of sickness absence is £478 per employee annually.

"In 1997 the total direct cost of sickness absence to UK employers was £11 billion, yet 30% of companies do not have a mechanism for recording absence. It seems many UK companies are exposing themselves to potential risks of Employer's Liability, and could fail to meet their responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act."