Eight out of ten small and medium-sized enterprises are not concerned by staff absenteeism, finds research by Zurich's commercial business unit

Absenteeism is one of the biggest problems facing employers, costing around £10bn per year. More than 20 million working days are lost each year due to staff sickness.

But while many employers appear to be resigned to the problem, the insurer says it can be tackled head-on.

“Companies need to conduct a risk management review of their workplace practices, which should look at health and safety and accident management and employee risk injury assessment,” said Roger Thrift, underwriting and marketing director at Zurich's commercial business unit.

In one recent case, the cost of a back injury to someone earning £19,000 a year was kept to £5,277, after an effective workplace injury programme helped the individual return to work after two months.

“Without this, it is estimated that the recovery would have taken 18 months at a cost of over £34,000,” said Thrift.