Two thirds of U.S. workers who call in sick at the last minute do so for reasons other than physical illness, according to a new survey.

The absenteeism rate was 2.3 percent in 2007, down slightly from 2.5 percent last year, according to a survey of 317 human resources executives by accounting information provider CCH and polling firm Harris Interactive.

"When you look at the survey results long-term, we can see that the unscheduled absence rate has been hovering in that 2 percent range since 2000," said Pam Wolf, an employment law analyst with CCH. "That tells us this remains a persistent problem that employers are really being challenged to resolve."

According to Wolf, for every 100 hours that employers pay employees to be present in the workplace and be productive, they are also paying for an additional 2.3 hours that employees are not even in the workplace. This year, the direct payroll cost alone for large companies of over 1,000 employees came to $764,000 for each company, not counting the lower productivity and morale that an unscheduled absence brings.

The survey found that personal illness accounts for only 34 percent of unscheduled absences, while 66 percent of absences are due to other reasons, including family issues (22 percent), personal needs (18 percent), entitlement mentality (13 percent) and stress (13 percent).

The study also addresses presenteeism - when employees come to work even though they are ill. Thirty-eight percent of employers reported that presenteeism is a problem in their organizations. Of those employers, 87 percent report that sick employees who show up to work are suffering from short-term illnesses such as colds and the flu, which can be easily spread.

To reduce presenteeism, 54 percent of employers report that they send sick employees home, while 40 percent educate employees on the importance of staying home when sick and 34 percent foster a culture that discourages employees from coming to work sick. Thirty percent of employers say they use telecommuting programs.

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