Absenteeism is costing business around 1.5 billion euro with workers missing almost six days on average a year, a survey has claimed.
The latest Irish Business and Employers Confederation study, based on 2009 absentee levels, found the recession had led to a slight cut in the number of days employees were not at work.
More days were taken in bigger organisations than those with fewer than 50 staff members, with sickness remaining the most common cause.
Brendan Butler, Ibec policy director, said there was significant room for improvement.
"The recession appears to have led to a reduced level of absenteeism, however it remains a serious social and economic issue," Mr Butler said.
"Besides its obvious impact on particular workplaces, absence affects the wider economy through loss of potential output and the increased spend on social security. While not all absence can be eliminated, there is significant room for improvement."
The Employee Absenteeism - A Guide To Managing Absence report was based on 2009 absentee levels from data provided by 635 companies employing more than 110,000 people. It found staff missed 5.98 days on average, an absence rate of 2.58%, compared to 3.38% in the last survey in 2004.
Absence levels were higher in large organisations - 3.58% for companies employing over 500 workers, versus 2.17% for companies with fewer than 50. Ibec said this can be reduced if bosses hold return-to-work interviews and put in place employee health and well-being support systems.
Some 4% of companies cited alcohol and alcohol-related illness as being a leading cause of short-term absence for men, while the figure was 1% for females. Call centres recorded the highest absence rate at 3.67%, while software companies had the lowest rate at 1.56%.
Mr Butler added: "Problem absence is a significant direct cost to employers, as well as creating additional costs that are more difficult to quantify, such as the cost of reduced quality of output, increased pressure on colleagues and increased administration time in replacing absent employees."