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Table Of Contents

A Complete Rundown On The Bradford Factor

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Table Of Contents

Ever wish you had a magic 8 ball that could tell you how likely your employees are to be absent in a year? Well –it’s time to thank your lucky stars! There’s something close, and it goes by the term The Bradford Factor. Keep reading as we take you through everything you need to know about this concept.

What is The Bradford Factor?

The Bradford Formula, the Bradford Score, or the Bradford Index — no matter what you call it, its purpose is the same.

The Bradford Factor is a mathematical equation that helps you calculate the effects of employees’ short, frequent, and unplanned absences. It is a useful benchmark tool that allows HR managers to get an accurate assessment score on their staff member’s individual absence records.  

It’s no surprise that in business, reducing unplanned employee absences is important because of the negative impact it can have on a company’s performance. Thus, the Bradford Factor is a way to measure the impact of absences on a business, or simply put: employee absenteeism. When talking about unplanned absences, a few examples are:

  • An illness
  • Doctor appointments
  • Personal emergencies
  • Unapproved absences

Although the Bradford Factor does not take into account any specific factors, such as disability, or a short-term recurring illness that causes sporadic absences, it can be used early to identify concerns, or as a tool for tracking leaves manually.

What does the equation look like?

The Bradford Factor is a formula that calculates a “score” based on the number of absences, the length of the absences, and how frequently those absences occur. The CIPD states that the Bradford Factor was born after a 1984 research paper published by Bradford University School of Management.  

This equation takes into account three variables: 

  • S = total number of absences by an individual in the running period
  • D = total number of days of absence taken by the individual 
  • B = final Bradford Factor score 

The Bradford Factor equation is simply (S x S) x D = B. A running period is usually observed to be a year by most companies. However, this can be shorter or longer depending on how your company operates.

In real life

Confused? Let us explain this equation in simpler terms using an example. Say two of your staff, James and Karen each took twelve days’ absence in a year, but each with different patterns of absence.

James took one extended leave lasting a total of 12 days over a twelve-month period.

Molly, on the other hand, took 1 day off each month over the same running period.

The Bradford Factor thus suggests that the impacts of the two workers’ time off are different. More specifically, Molly’s absences had a worse impact on your business. Using the Bradford Factor, James would have a score of 12, whereas Molly would have a score of 144. It is a bit of a difference that highlights Molly’s random absences as being disruptive towards your company. See how it works?

This model was created so employers could gain a better understanding of what employee leaves look like in their company. By doing so, they can implement policies to avoid being negatively impacted financially by high absenteeism rates or other factors related to illness in their workforce.

How can I interpret it?

You might be wondering how a simple number can tell you whether or not you should take action. When your company calculates the Bradford Factor, you’ll quickly see the impact absenteeism has on your company’s productivity. 

This way you will not only get insight into your workforce but can also easily see leave absence trends and pinpoint how individuals affect frequent unplanned absences.

Since the Bradford Factor is a mathematical system, you first work out individual scores using the formula. But as a person’s score goes up, they might hit certain trigger points. Let’s put it this way — the higher the score you get, the bigger the issues of absenteeism are in that employee. A higher Bradford Factor score occurs when many employees have taken a number of short absences, rather than a few longer ones. For example, consider six days missed in one month due to sickness. This would be considered more serious than if those six days were spread out over three months.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what these numbers mean. These scores will range from 1 to infinity, but anything above 200 should definitely catch your attention. The darker (or redder) an employee’s score is, the bigger the cause of concern for your business. 

the bradford factor

What do the numbers mean?

The Bradford Factor takes into account frequent short-term absences, which are assumed to be more disruptive than a few long-term absences. The reasoning is that frequent short-term absences cause other employees to pick up the slack and therefore disrupt their own work, as well as create an inconsistent leadership structure for those employees who have picked up the slack for more than one employee.

Bradford Factor scores are assessed differently by different companies. Some employers set ‘trigger points’, which managers are notified of when met. It is entirely up to the company to determine what action is triggered at what trigger points. At one Bradford Factor trigger point, an informal conversation with the line manager might take place; a higher trigger point might result in a more formal disciplinary procedure. For example:

  • 0 points = no concern about your employee.
  • 101 points = an informal verbal warning can be issued
  • 201 points = a formal written warning
  • 401 points = a final written notice
  • 601 points = employee dismissal for persistent absenteeism

What’s the catch?

Now that you’ve understood how The Bradford Factor works, you might be asking yourself “Is this equation actually useful?”

Well, the answer is simple: frequent unplanned absences cause serious damage to businesses as they often result in other employees having to pick up the slack and lack consistent leadership in vital positions. And The Bradford Factor helps you eradicate these problems right from the source.

It’s true that many businesses can survive even when a few people end up taking unexpected time off. But when unplanned absences become more frequent or regular and/or cover extended periods of time—like weeks or months at a time—the effect on your bottom line will be significant.

The Bradford Factor is an easy way to measure how much absence affects your organization’s productivity and profitability, so make sure that every one of your employees understands how important it is for them to come in when they’re supposed to.

In addition to that, the Bradford Factor is a tool that HR managers can use to identify problems with employee absentee rates and help them fix those problems. It’s not a panacea, but it may help them get a whole lot closer to their goal of creating a healthy work environment for everyone. That being said, just like everything else in life, there are both pros and cons to using The Bradford Factor. 

The good 

It’s easy-to-use

Implementing The Bradford Factor can no doubt help identify problems with employee absentee rates and fix them. The Bradford Factor identifies patterns in absence data that might indicate issues in your company’s PTO policies or other policies related to time off from work (e.g., sick days). All for free, using a single formula. What’s not to like about that? 

Incredibly efficient

Using the Bradford Factor is also an incredibly efficient and accessible process. Since manual calculation doesn’t take too long and can be automated fairly easily. All you need to do is familiarize yourself with the formula, and you can start using the tool straight away. Furthermore, the Bradford Factor is really targeted towards another kind of absence – non-genuine sickness days and those who ‘abuse’ the system – the people who ‘throw a sickie’ or have a duvet day. 

And ensures fairness for all

Using a system like the Bradford Factor is also fair for all employees in your company. It is a mathematical equation and will treat everyone the same — regardless of who they are. Doing so helps to guard against favoritism within HR departments and your company.

But let’s slow down for a second. If you unpack either of those benefits to any degree, then the benefits of using the Bradford Factor quickly start to fall apart.

The bad

Leads to indirect indiscrimination

While The Bradford Factor aims to treat every employee equally and in a fair manner, using a formula or a one size fits all approach to leave management is not the best route to take. Why, you ask? Because it inevitably leads to indirect indiscrimination. Indirect discrimination is when you treat an employee the same as everybody else, but it has a negative effect on them.

Say you have a practice, policy, or rule that applies to every employee similarly. Now, that probably sounds like a good thing. But it’s not always the case.

It may come as a surprise to people, but like direct discrimination, treating staff the same can also disadvantage them too. For example, employees with medical conditions, physical disabilities, mental health issues, or their family members with similar conditions are likely to need more time off than the average employee. And using the Bradford Factor in this scenario is not beneficial because it does not factor in their special circumstances.

As a result, adjusting trigger points for employees with known circumstances can benefit both you and them. It’s fairer, and you show that you care about your staff and listen to them. Hence, if you do end up using the Bradford factor at work, ensure your absence management policy outlines this procedure to all employees.

Wrapping it up…

While the Bradford Factor has its benefits, as with anything else in life, there will always be some drawbacks. In this case, the major drawback is that you have to do some legwork to get results. On the plus side, you can use The Bradford Factor for both cost-cutting and revenue enhancement. Ultimately, being aware of your workers’ absences can help you make more strategic decisions that positively affect your employees and business. These insights can also be used to create a customized action plan for each employee to ensure their attendance levels are kept at a preferred level.

Snigdha Gupta
Snigdha Gupta

An avid writer and aspiring marketer, Snigdha is a student at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business.

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