The Bradford Factor and How to Use It

Managing sickness absence is a notable challenge many employers face today. Differentiating between genuine illnesses and potential misuse of sick days is not always straightforward. This is where the Bradford Factor comes into play. Serving as a crucial tool, it aids employers in effectively managing and reducing unwarranted absences.

In this article, we will explore everything you need to know to implement the Bradford Factor into your sickness policy.

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What is the Bradford Factor?

Devised in the 1980s by the Bradford University School of Management, the Bradford Factor is a calculation and scoring system used to measure sickness absence. The calculation gives more weight to frequent, short-term absences, as these are the most disruptive to businesses. The higher the score, the more problematic that employee is to your business.

How to Calculate the Bradford Factor 

Calculating the Bradford Factor is very simple. For a given employee, you count the number of instances (i) of sickness they’ve taken over the last 12 months. You then add up the number of days (d) sickness over the same period. Then, use the following formula to calculate their Bradford Factor:

(i x i) x d = Bradford Factor

As an example, Jamie breaks his leg and is unable to make it to work for 3 weeks (15 days), but that is his only instance of sickness in the last 12 months. His calculation is:

(1 x 1) x 15 = 15

Jessica, however, has called in sick on 5 separate occasions in the last 12 months, but only taken a day each time. Despite her only having 5 sick days compared to Jamie’s 15, her Bradford Factor is much higher:

(5 x 5) x 5 = 125

If you record employee sickness in a spreadsheet, then finding the number of days of sickness for each employee is usually straightforward. What’s more difficult to identify is the number of instances.

Implementing a tool such as The Holiday Tracker to track sickness makes it incredibly simple to get both of these figures. It even calculates the Bradford Factor for you, making it easy for you to identify and assess any recurring issues.

What is a Good Bradford Factor Score?

Bradford factor scores will range widely from one employee to another, depending on their circumstances. Generally, a lower score is considered good, pointing to fewer disruptions from that employee’s absences. On the flip side, higher scores can raise eyebrows, often highlighting more frequent short-term absences that can pose challenges to daily operations.

Below is a brief overview of what each range of scores can represent, and potential actions to take. 

ScoreInterpretationPotential Actions to Take
Below 50Acceptable level of absence.No further action is needed.
Over 50Possible pattern emerging.Review and discuss with the employee.
Over 100Frequent workplace disruptionsInitiate a formal review.
Over 200Serious concern, regular short-term absences.Consider an intervention.
200-500Chronic disruption. Requires immediate attention.In-depth review and action planning.
500+Critical level of absence. Major business impactImmediate intervention.
Table showing Bradford Factor scores, their meaning and potential actions to take.

These figures only provide a framework. It’s essential to remember that scores should be viewed within the context of your business environment and individual employee circumstances. Every situation is unique, so a flexible and understanding approach is advised.

When Does The Bradford Factor Score Reset?

The Bradford Factor score typically resets at the beginning of your organisation’s financial or calendar year, providing a clean slate for employees annually. However, some companies may choose a rolling period, where the score is calculated based on the preceding 12 months at any given time. It is critical to clearly communicate the chosen reset policy to all employees to ensure transparency and avoid any confusion regarding the accumulation of their scores.

How To Use the Bradford Factor

While the Bradford Factor is a valuable tool for understanding employee absences, you should never use it in isolation.

Relying solely on the Bradford Factor can be misleading. If used incorrectly, it might lead to hasty and potentially unfair decisions. For instance, disciplining an employee based only on their Bradford score could overlook other essential contexts like personal challenges or external factors affecting their attendance.

Instead, the ideal approach is a holistic one. The Bradford Factor should complement other measures, giving a more rounded and accurate view of an employee’s situation. This broader perspective ensures fairness and precision amongst employees. 

Combining Factors

To truly grasp the intricacies of employee absence, it’s vital to combine multiple indicators. By doing so, you not only understand the ‘how often’ but also the ‘why’ behind each absence. 

Below, we will explore the three main measurables that should be used alongside the Bradford Factor. 

Absence Rate

The absence rate offers a clear view of an employee’s days off as a percentage of their total working days. To calculate, take the number of sick days in a year, divide it by the total annual work days, and multiply by 100. This straightforward metric ensures fairness when comparing full-time and part-time workers, as a part-time worker is likely to have fewer sick days given that they work fewer days.

Average Duration

To determine the average duration, divide the total sick days by the number of absences. Using this alongside the Bradford Factor helps determine if absences are typically short or extended. Which is essential for a complete understanding of absence trends.

Sick Days Heat Map

A sick day heat map indicates the specific days when absences most frequently occur. Look out for patterns, especially on Mondays and Fridays. Pairing this map with the Bradford Factor can spotlight concerns; for instance, a notable Bradford score coupled with a Monday/Friday absence trend suggests a deeper issue that requires attention.

Taking Action

When implementing the Bradford Factor to your sickness policy, it is smart to set “triggers” determining at which stage action is taken. Before taking action, however, it is important to investigate the root cause of employee absence. 

There could be a fair reason for an employee to have a higher-than-expected Bradford Factor. Enforcing disciplinary actions without careful consideration could cause you to lose valuable members of your team. Use triggers as a guide, but always make decisions based on the full picture.

Potential Pitfalls with the Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor score increases exponentially as the number of instances increases, meaning it’s crucially important to accurately count the instances of absence. 

For example, an employee goes home from work sick one afternoon and then pushes themselves to return to work the next day. But, due to still feeling unwell, they go home in the afternoon.

Technically, this is two instances of absence and might be recorded that way. But is it fair to increase this employee’s score because they tried to return to work before they were ready? 

In our post, the advantages and disadvantages of the Bradford Factor, we explore deeper into the pros and cons you should consider when implementing the Bradford Factor to your sickness policy. 

Final Thoughts

The Bradford Factor is undeniably useful, but it’s crucial to remember it’s just one part of a bigger picture. It’s a tool to aid understanding, not a standalone verdict. For the best results, pair it with a robust sickness policy and a sprinkling of good old-fashioned common sense. This ensures both fairness and a supportive work environment.

The Holiday Tracker helps you to simplify managing employee absence. Our software automatically calculates the Bradford Factor, as well as providing a detailed view of absence rates, average durations and a sick days heatmap. It’s designed to make your job easier while ensuring a fair assessment. We offer a 7 day free trial, allowing you to try out all our features free of charge, with no credit card information required. 

For a deeper dive into employee sickness, explore our articles 5 Ways to Reduce Sick Leave and The Benefits of Duvet Days. Staying informed is key to managing absence effectively.

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