What is the Bradford Factor?

In Human Resources Management, the Bradford Factor is a calculation used to generate an absence ‘score’ for individuals based on employee absence data. The idea is that frequent short and unplanned absences are more harmful to a business than long-term ones, so the higher the employee’s Bradford Factor score, the more disruption they are causing.

How do you calculate it?

The Bradford Factor is calculated using the formula: (S x S) x D
S = the total number of an employee’s instances of absence over a set period, generally 52 weeks.
D = the total number of days of absence of that employee over the same set period

10 one-day absences: (10 x 10) x 10 = 1000

1 ten day-absence: (1 x 1) x 10 = 10

5 two-day absences: (5 x 5) x 10 = 250

2 five-day absences: (2 x 2) x 10 = 40

It’s clear that frequent short absences will quickly accumulate a higher score than less frequent absences. In all the examples above, the total number of days absent is 10, but where there were 10 spells of sick leave, the score is much greater.

Guidance is given on appropriate scores, but organisations can set their own ‘triggers’ depending on what they deem appropriate for their business.

How does it help with your absence management strategy?

Organisations rely on their people to keep their services running smoothly, so ensuring the right level of cover is essential. While it’s not too difficult to plan for paid time off, or arrange additional resourcing when staff need to take long-term sick leave, high levels of short-term absences can be extremely costly. They impact not just the bottom line, but the moral and performance of staff left to cover for absent colleagues.

Bradford Factor scores helps organisations stay on top of the cumulative impact of short-term absences – which is often easy to miss – acting as a red flag when absence levels reach worrying or unacceptable levels at an individual or team level.

At this stage, an obvious first step is to talk to the employee or employees in question. Often, it is at this stage that the real reasons for frequent short-term absences come to light. It could be that a member of staff is struggling with child or elder care responsibilities, is experiencing problems with another member of staff or their manager or is feeling they can’t cope because of an unacceptably heavy workload. Armed with this information, HR teams can implement appropriate absence management strategies – perhaps to look at flexible working, adjust hours or roles, or, if it’s a relationship issue, widen out the scope of the conversation.

If no obvious root cause is identified, it’s generally best practice to implement ‘return to work’ interviews to establish why a particular individual has been off sick, which may in turn lead to putting in place performance improvement plans or, in extreme cases invoke disciplinary processes.

Use of the tool can have more subtle effects too. If employees know the business is actively monitoring individual absence rates, they are less likely to throw a ‘sickie’ if they’ve had a heavy weekend or are feeling a bit under par but are perfectly capable of going into work. (Discover other ways you can prevent your staff from throwing a sickie).

The plain truth about just how much time they are having off can also come as a shock to some employees, who may have fallen into the habit of taking the odd day off here and there because they know they won’t be pulled up on it. Often people simply don’t realise how much these odd days off are adding up to and how it’s affecting the business.

What is a bad Bradford Factor?

There is no hard and fast rule about what a bad Bradford Factor score looks like. You may want to look back at past absence data (if you have it) or talk to others in a similar industry to see what levels they’ve found to be appropriate.

That being said, companies need to make sure that they are not setting trigger points at an unrealistic level (after all, many short-term absences are genuine) or that they are not inadvertently discriminating against people who have health conditions or disabilities that result in frequent short-term absences. Scores need to be assessed very much on a case by case basis, so that the most appropriate and fairest action can be taken.

Calculating the Bradford Factor in Cezanne HR

  • Calculates the Bradford Factor of your employees within a 52-week period.
  • Allows you to view the analytics for any 52 week-period, not just from the current date, when you adjust the reference date.
  • Sends you a notification when an employee reaches the ‘Bradford Factor Threshold’ over a defined period.
  • Takes into account the amount of sickness taken proportionally to the amount that employee works
  • View employees’ Bradford Factor in Organisation Charts to see how scores vary in different areas of the company.
  • Calculates the average Bradford Factor for all employees who have been sick in a specified period (excluding those who have taken no absences at all).

Is your business using the Bradford Factor? Let us know what strategies you have in place for managing short term absence.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.

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