Small businesses are losing more than 563 million euro a year through absenteeism, it has been claimed.
A report by the Small Firms Association (SFA) found back pain and stress were among the most common complaints for taking time off work, with the national average at eight days.
Avine McNally, SFA director, said the overall costs to businesses could be as high as 900 million euro when factors such as replacing staff with other workers or overtime payments are taken into consideration.
"In cash terms, absenteeism costs small businesses with sick pay schemes an estimated 563 million euro per annum, based on average earnings of 143 euro per day," Ms McNally said.
"This takes no account of other direct costs such as the requirement to replace absent staff with other workers or overtime payments, and the cost of medical referrals; or of the indirect costs such as the effect on productivity and quality, the increased work pressure on other colleagues, and the admin time in managing absence."
The SFA National Absenteeism survey, carried out online at the beginning of September, reveals workers in small companies of less than 50 employees are less likely to take sick days than those in larger companies.
Although the national average for absenteeism is eight working days, the figure rises to 10 for larger firms but falls to five for smaller businesses.
The worst regions are the west and north-west with 9.1 days, and the north-east with 7.2 days.
"Back pain/injury and stress are the most commonly cited problems on medical certs," Ms McNally said. "Employers should ensure that they are fulfilling their duty of care to their employees by including manual handling and stress when conducting risk assessments as part of their review of their Health & Safety Statements."
Ms McNally said it was a concern that stress contributed to absenteeism as it can lead to a less productive workforce and the risk of legal action being taken against the firm for negligence or constructive dismissal.