Work absence has fallen to a record low, with the average rate dropping to 5.3 days in 2012.

This is according to a new study from the CBI, which found the average absence rate was 5.3 days in 2012, representing a significant fall from 6.5 days in 2010. This saves businesses a total of £3 billion.

Absence rates in the public and private sector were down to 6.9 from 8.1 and 4.9 from 5.9 respectively, while mental health conditions emerged as the most widespread cause of long-term absence.

Despite the reduction in the number of absences, almost £1.8 billion was lost from the one-in-eight sick days that were estimated to be taken for non-genuine reasons. One in five emplloyees also admitted taking "sickies" as an occasional perk.

Neil Carberry, CBI Director of Employment and Skills, said: "The record low shows employers are getting much better at tackling the root causes of absence. This is down to stronger staff engagement, initiatives to foster employee health and better re-integration plans after longer-term sick leave.

"But there is no room for complacency. Clearly, when staff are sick, they should not be in work, but there’s a lot more employers can do to tackle absence at a time when growth is fragile."