By Ben Simmons

Britain’s bosses are bracing themselves for record levels of absenteeism today — but can rest assured that even workshy staff are unlikely to take more than one day off in today’s economic climate.

Research suggests that the combination of wintry weather, commuting to and from work in the dark, Christmas credit card bills and a long wait until the next holiday makes today (Monday, February 6) the day Brits are most likely to ring in sick.

It is estimated that the day — dubbed “National Sickie Day” — will cost UK Plc’s more than £34million in salary, reduced service and output, lost opportunities and overtime payment incurred.

But there is some good news for employers — the number of days workers award themselves for a bout of fake illness is falling as the economy falters, with most staff now only daring to spend one day at a time under the duvet.

Peter Mooney, head of employment law at business support specialist, ELAS, said: “We have been keeping a close eye on absenteeism for years, and there has always been a sizeable number of skivers who, having phoned in sick once, award themselves a second day to make their illness look more believable.

“But in the past 12 months, a combination of the stuttering economy and managers finally grasping the nettle over absenteeism has seen that particular trend end.

“Now, while the number of people suspected of throwing sickies continues to grow steadily, the length of time they’re off work is falling fast.”

ELAS looks after the employment law and compliance needs of thousands of companies across the UK, helping them to tackle issues such as absenteeism through its Employersafe intelligent business software and its Absence Assist service, whereby staff have to speak daily to trained absence managers rather than phone their boss whenever they are ill.

Based on its monitoring of absenteeism nationwide, the company estimates that as many as 400,000 UK workers will “throw a sickie” today — a “significant” increase on February 2011.

Mr Mooney added: “You might expect that those people lucky enough to have a job in the current economy might do everything within their power to keep it, but our research has found that that’s not the case.

“If anything, the constant doom and gloom about struggling businesses and public sector cuts seems to make people more likely to treat themselves when they can — and an unofficial day off work is one perk many people feel they’re entitled to from time to time.

“The good news is that managers are finally doing something about it. After years of letting standards slip by allowing staff to text or email in sick rather than phoning, managers are now getting the message and tackling absenteeism head on.

“As a result, we’ve found that overall absenteeism is falling as staff return to work more quickly rather than face putting on their ‘poorly voice’ like Kelly Rowland on X Factor for a second or third day running.”

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