The Bradford Factor and How to Use It

Sickness absence is a concern for most employers. Knowing when to take action against employees that regularly call in sick can be difficult. Thankfully, using tools such as the Bradford Factor can help you manage and reduce unauthorised absence. 

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 absence, as these are the most disruptive to businesses. The higher the score, the more problematic that employee is to your business.

The calculation itself 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 into 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’ sickness for each employee is usually straightforward. What’s more difficult to identify is the number of instances.

Using 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.  If you’d like to try it for yourself, sign up for a 7-day free trial, or book a demo.

Gotchas to Watch Out For

Because the score increases exponentially as the number of instances increase, it’s very important to accurately count the instances of absence. For example, imagine an employee who goes home from work sick one afternoon, then pushes themselves to return to work the next day, only to be forced to go home in the afternoon because they’re still feeling unwell. Technically this is two instances of absence, and might be recorded that way, but is it fair to increase the employee’s Bradford Factor because they tried to return to work before they were ready?

How Should It Be Used

The Bradford Factor definitely should not be used in isolation. Some companies set inflexible triggers such as: a Bradford Factor of 50 triggers a verbal warning. Without investigating the cause of the absence, it’s unfair to discipline an employee based upon their Bradford Factor score alone. If you do set triggers, then it should be to arrange a meeting or investigation.

There could be a fair reason for an employee to have a higher than expected Bradford Factor and enforcing rigid triggers could cause you to lose valuable members of your team because a trigger forced disciplinary action.

Other Factors to Combine It With

Along with the total number of sick days, there are a few other factors you can use to analyse an employee’s sickness record. All of the factors mentioned here are automatically calculated in The Holiday Tracker.

Absence Rate
This is expressed as a percentage of the days an employee is contracted to work. Take the number of sick days in a year, then divide it by the number of days that employee should work in that year and multiply the result by 100. This figure allows you to compare part-time workers against full-time workers fairly, as a part-time worker is likely to have less sick days given that they work fewer days.

Average Duration
Take the total number of sick days and divide it by the number of instances of absence to get the average duration. The average duration can be used along with the Bradford Factor to show if the employee’s absences are short or long-term.

Sick Days Heat Map
A Sick Days Heat Map highlights which days of the week the absences fall on. Mondays and Fridays are likely to be the patterns you’re watching for here. If a high Bradford Factor is combined with a Monday/Friday pattern, then there is probably an issue you need to address.

In Conclusion

The Bradford Factor and the other factors mentioned above can be incredibly powerful tools to highlight employees that require your attention but should never be used in isolation. However, used in combination with a robust sickness policy and a sprinkling of good old-fashioned common sense, they can be an excellent tool in your toolbox.

Read some of our other posts on sickness such as 5 Ways to Reduce Sick Leave in your Business and How Duvet Days Can Reduce Your Sickness Absence.

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