Unison has criticised the government's "obsession with absence rates" after national statistics were published showing the number of absences per year had dropped by 40% since 1993.
The trade union feared that the changes were primarily down to fears over job security and noted that the results showed where employees lived and worked was a greater determinant of their absence rate than the industry they worked in.
As WSB reported last week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) results explained that most of the fall in sickness absence rates occurred between 2003 and 2011 with "very little change over the past two years".
Musculoskeletal conditions, including back and neck pain, were the main cause for employee sickness absence in 2013, with a total of 31 million days lost, followed by minor illnesses such as coughs and colds, while mental health issues including stress, anxiety and depression caused employees to miss a total of 15 million days of work.
Compared to the private sector, where 1.8% of hours were lost to sickness absence in 2013, the public sector lost 2.9% of their hours to employees calling in sick, with absence rates highest for those working in a health authority or NHS trust (3.4%) within some of the larger public sector organisations.
Unison responded by saying: "The ONS figures reveal that those living in deprived areas with poor health - where private sector employers are least likely to be located - have higher absence rates than more prosperous areas."
It added that it was "concerned that the more recent falls in sickness absence are being driven by workers' fears of losing their jobs, rather than any improvements in health and safety".
Head of health and safety Tracey Harding said: "These figures show the folly of this government's obsession with absence rates, rather than focusing on the underlying work-related health and safety issues.
"Unison supports any initiatives that reduce sickness absence by improving the health of the workers. But if the government really wanted to make a difference it would reverse its policies of attacking the basic principles of good health and safety management on the one hand, and cutting back on public services and jobs on the other."
Nearly three quarters have seen their income reduce
£4m GWP per annum across its portfolio
Fully interactive virtual conference
Canada Life research
Only 6% currently receiving it