More than 600 staff were dismissed from Iain Duncan Smith's Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) for their poor work attendance record last year, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Official statistics uncovered by communications agency LifeSize show 672 were fired for “unsatisfactory attendance” and 54 were disciplined for “unauthorised absence” – includingunwarranted sick leave - at the DWP, which employs more than 100,000 staff.

The average number of sick days in 2011 at the department was 7.4 per employee, with a total of 700,890 work days lost – or 2.6% of total working days.

Stress accounted for one in 10 of days lost to sickness (9.2%), followed by stomach upsets (8.1%), colds (5.8%) and back pain (5.8%).

Personnel at the Ministry of Justice took the most days off ill – an average of 8.9 – with 21.7% of the 635,554 sick days being attributed to stress.

In addition, 36 staff were disciplined for their absence, with 11 being carpeted for abuse of sick leave procedures and 23 for being absent without leave or late.

The Foreign Office had the smallest problem with ill staff with an average of just 3.57 days a year being lost to sickness.

LifeSize, which is a HD video conferencing specialist, hinted these numbers could be reduced if the government invested in technology to enable more flexible working.

Michael Stephens, UK general manager, said: “We know flexible working can produce a far more productive and motivated workforce, as well as having a wider impact on theoverall workplace environment. Ahead of the Olympics, Whitehall led the way in trialing such a scheme, offering disgruntled employees with alternative ways to get to work.

“The proliferation of affordable and easy-to-use technologies such as high-speedbroadband, HD video communications and cloud computing, means it’s now possible for organisations and departments to offer their staff a flexible working option.”

Average number of sick days taken by an individual member of staff in 2011

Ministry of Justice
Average number of sick days per staff member: 8.9
Total number of sick days claimed by staff: 635,554

Ministry of Defence
Average number of sick days per staff member: 8
Total number of sick days claimed by staff: 528,430

Department of Work and Pensions
Average number of sick days per staff member: 7.4
Total number of sick days claimed by staff: 700,890

Department for Communities and Local Government
Average number of sick days per staff member: 6.5
Total number of sick days claimed by staff: 13,927

Department of Culture, Media and Sport
Average number of sick days per staff member: 5
Total number of sick days claimed by staff: 2,111

Department for International Development
Average number of sick days per staff member: 4.7
Total number of sick days claimed by staff: 9,142

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Average number of sick days per staff member: 4.5
Total number of sick days claimed by staff: 10,331

Department of Energy and Climate Change
Average number of sick days per staff member: 4.1
Total number of sick days claimed by staff: 4,959

Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Average number of sick days per staff member: 3.57
Total number of sick days claimed by staff: 19,300