The proportion of UK companies reporting high rates of staff sickness has fallen to less than half the rate in Germany and France in five years, according to new research. Dr Wen Wang, of the University of Wolverhampton Business School, found that in 2004 around 17 per cent of UK firms studied said they had high rates of staff sickness, which fell to 9 per cent by 2009. By contrast, 24 per cent of firms studied in Germany said they had high staff sickness in 2009, up from 17 per cent in 2004. In France the percentage fell from 29 per cent in 2004 to 21 per cent in 2009. She told the Sociological Association's conference on work, employment and society this week the fall was partly due to the UK having weaker employment protection and lower sick pay. Dr Wang, along with the university's Professor Roger Seifert, analysed statistics on 2,620 private-sector firms with more than 10 employees in the three countries. She told the conference: 'We see that the proportion of companies reporting high staff sickness decreased in the UK from 2004 to 2009, turning it to the lowest rate of high staff sickness among the three large economies in Europe.'