The research, which took place throughout the country and covered all sectors of Irish business, showed that the average employee in a small company misses seven days each year through sickness.
The report also indicated that workers in small companies were less likely to take sick days than their counterparts in larger businesses. Electronics and engineering companies had the highest rates of employee absenteeism.
Minor illnesses were cited as the most common cause for short-term, uncertified absences, while home responsibilities and personal problems were cited as secondary causes.
More than half the companies who took part in the study said they recorded the causes of short-term absence. The report showed that businesses with a formal procedure for recording absences were more likely to see their absence as unsatisfactory or a serious problem.
“It is essential that small firms be pro-active in dealing with the issue of absenteeism and introduce policies and procedures to address the problem – companies who formally record absenteeism are more likely to see a decrease,” said SOFA Assistant Director Ovine McNally, commenting on the figures to the Irish Independent newspaper this week.
According to McNally, how an employer behaves can influence how many sick days a worker takes.
“The first thing they need to do is have a policy and procedure in place so staff know what’s acceptable and what’s not,” she told the Independent.
“The other thing employers need to ensure is that staff enjoy the working environment they’re working in – so for example, it’s very team based, there’s good communications.”
“And also that management are actually rewarding presence in the workplace rather than rewarding or ignoring the problem of absenteeism,” she continued.
“This can frustrate other employees who are very diligent.”
Work-related stress has also been noted as an increasing cause of absenteeism in businesses worldwide.
An International Labor Organization survey in 2000 showed that four percent of the EU gross national product went towards treating mentally ill employees.
Three in ten UK employees suffer from mental health problems, resulting in an estimated annual loss of