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'Flintoff flu' could cost UK business billions of pounds in staff absence

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Staff absence could cost UK business 5 billion today and on Monday as workers call in 'sick' because of the Ashes final, Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff's last Test Series, school holidays and paranoia over swine flu.

According to insurance firm RSA, the cocktail of absence factors will mean more people take the day off work on 21 August and 24 August, than any other day of the year. The firm goes as far as to suggest 10% of the UK workforce could take the day off work.

Aaron Devitt, director of sales and strategic relationships at the RSA, said: "The last time the Ashes were played in the UK - in 2005 - 8.4 million people turned on to watch the TV and, given the temptation of staying at home watching ‘Freddie's' last ever Ashes Series, plus the desire to be with the family at the beginning of the summer holidays, this could prove disastrous for motivation to go to work."

The average cost of a day's lost labour in the UK stands at £850.

Devitt added: "The knock-on effect will be companies trying to get work done with far fewer staff, causing a drop in productivity as well as a huge rise in stress levels for remaining staff. With all the problems in the UK economy, ‘Flintoff flu' could not have come at a worse time."