The average number of days a year lost to sickness absence per employee also declined slightly to 5, down from 5.3 in 2016. At an average of 6.1 days, manual employees lost more than double the number of days to sickness absence than those in non-manual roles, who missed an average of just 3 days a year.

The benchmark shows that there is slight variance in days missed across sectors. The rubber, plastics & chemicals sector had the highest average number of days absent at 5.5 and the metals sector the lowest at 4.7 per employee in 2017.

There were also differences in the number sick days taken between larger and smaller companies too. Smaller companies, with a workforce of up to 50, saw employees each miss on average 3.7 days a year, whereas companies with over 500 employees saw staff miss 7.3 days.

Terry Woolmer (pictured), head of Health & Safety Policy at EEF, said: “Unplanned leave from staff is something firms look to minimise as it has disruptive and costly consequences for workforce productivity and morale. The small fall in absence rate is therefore a positive sign for the sector.

“Whilst staff missing work for sickness is inevitable, gathering as much information as possible and comparing company data to wider trends across the sector is essential for tackling any absence issues before they grow into a larger concern. Today’s data, showing absence rates are slowly declining, indicates that manufacturers are doing just that”