What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of the Bradford Factor?

The Bradford Factor, sometimes called the Bradford Formula, is a way of measuring employee absence. It’s a mathematical formula that you can use to score an employee’s sickness absence. This then helps you to work out how their absence has affected your business over a particular time period, usually a year.

It’s used by a wide range of companies and their HR teams to track employees’ sickness absence. To understand how to calculate the Bradford Factor, watch the video below or read our post on how to calculate the Bradford Factor.

What are the pros and cons of it? Let’s take a look.


It Alerts You to Potential Problems with Employee Absences

Using the formula, you can identify employees that take a lot of instances off, even if they don’t have a high number of total days. This will help you to catch employees who might be otherwise flying under the radar or may need additional support.

You can then speak to an employee to find out what the issue may be. They might be in need of extra help for personal or professional reasons that they haven’t felt able to talk about. Raising it with them in an informal meeting gives them an opening. You can then use the information to come up with ways to best help them.

You Can Use It as a Benchmark to Identify Patterns

A benchmark helps you to compare employee absences across people and teams so that you can look for patterns. Do people from sales take more sick leave than people from marketing? Do developers face a lot of pressure, or have a micromanaging boss?

Patterns within teams could lead you to discover a culture of pressure and stress that you were unaware of. In particularly stressful environments, employees often feel unable to talk about it, or that they don’t have the time.

There may also be a member of the team or a manager that’s bringing the mood down. One person can make a huge difference to a team’s mental and physical health whether that’s through micromanaging, belittling, bullying, or selfish behaviour.

Sometimes the office space can also cause health issues. For example, poor lighting triggering migraines or uncomfortable chairs causing back pain. If this is a recurring problem, you can look into ways to mitigate the issue. This could involve changing the lighting, putting screen protectors on monitors, adding back supports to chairs, or replacing the chairs. These are simple fixes that can make a huge difference to employee productivity and health.

It Helps You Manage Employee Illnesses and Disabilities

You may discover through the formula that an employee is dealing with a chronic illness or disability that hasn’t been previously discussed. Being aware of this makes it easier for both them and you to manage. You can look into them working from home more often, offering them more flexible work hours, or reducing the number of hours that they work as ways to help them deal with their condition.


It’s Simplistic

While the Bradford Factor can be useful, it shouldn’t be taken as gospel or used in isolation. For employees with chronic health issues or disabilities, they may need to take short, unplanned absences because of flare-ups in their condition. These are unpredictable and could last a day, a week, or longer.

It Can Encourage Presenteeism

We live in a culture where working when you’re ill is praised. For some, this can lead to burnout.

If an employee knows they’re at risk because they’ve taken too much sick leave, it may scare them into working when they’re too ill so that they don’t fall into a danger zone. This then risks any germs they have being passed on to their colleagues, making their colleagues sick and hampering productivity.

You may therefore need to remind employees that you don’t use it to penalise people who are genuinely ill. It’s there to protect your business and make sure that people aren’t taking advantage of the business’s sick leave policy.


The Bradford Factor is a useful benchmark for working out employee absence rates. It shouldn’t be used in isolation as it doesn’t factor in a person’s individual healthcare needs such as disabilities or chronic illnesses. However, it can help to pick up on patterns in people and teams. You can then use this information to work out what you can do to help employees better manage their health.

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