The number of UK firms reporting high rates of staff sickness has fallen to less than half the rate in Germany and France in recent years, a study revealed.
Fewer than one in 10 companies were affected by high levels of employee sickness in 2009, down from 17% in 2004, it found.
This compared with one in four companies in Germany and one in five in France, said Wen Wang of the University of Wolverhampton Business School.
Dr Wang said at a British Sociological Association conference in Warwick: "Workplace absence through sickness was reported to cost British business £32 billion a year - our findings show that Germany and France suffer even bigger losses.
"We see that the proportion of companies reporting high staff sickness decreased in the UK from 2004 to 2009, turning it to the lowest rate of high staff sickness among the three large economies in Europe.
"Strong employment protection and generous sick pay was empirically found to contribute to increased staff sickness in Germany and France. Employment protection is much higher and sick pay is more generous in Germany and France.
"Our results also show that a friendly and supportive working environment can also reduce sickness, regardless of nationality."
The findings support recent research showing that the UK does not have a "sickie" culture, with unions arguing the opposite is true, with employees struggling into work while ill.