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Blog • 26.04.19

What is the Bradford Factor?

Kate L
HR Consultant

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The Bradford Factor is designed to flag up a pattern of problematic absence by scoring employee’s absence based on both the length and frequency of absence.

The research behind the system (conducted in 1980 by The Bradford University School of Management – hence “Bradford”) indicates that frequent short-term absences are more disruptive to a business than infrequent, long-term absence. So, someone taking numerous non-consecutive absences would accrue a higher score than someone absent for the same number of days taken in one consecutive block.

It works like this; take five employees who’ve all taken the same amount of sick days over a year, we’ll say 12, but their absences show a different pattern. 12 days in one chunk vs 12 separate days will impact their work and workplace in quite different ways.

The Bradford Factor is a mathematical formula that gives each employee a “score” based on their own pattern, helping to identify problematic patterns of absence.

Bradford score calculator

First, let’s start with the equation: 

  • S x S x D = Bradford score 
  • S is the total number of instances of sickness of an individual over a set period. 
  • D is the total number of days of absence of that individual over the same set period. 
  • The ‘set period’ is typically set as a rolling 52-week period. 

For example, here’s how 10 days absence could be shown and how the Bradford factor would differ in each circumstance: 

  • 1 instance of absence with a duration of ten days (1 × 1 × 10) = 10 points 
  • 3 instances of absence; one of one, one of three and one of six days (3 × 3 × 10) = 90 points 
  • 5 instances of absence; each of two days (5 × 5 × 10) = 250 points 
  • 10 instances of absence; each of one day (10 × 10 × 10) = 1000 points 
  • 1 instance of absence; with a duration of one year (1 × 1 × 240) = 240 points 

What is a good Bradford Factor score?

With the Bradford Factor, the lower the score the better. Higher scores indicate a more disruptive pattern of absence for the business.

Bradford Factor advantages

The Bradford Factor can help to flag up possible issues surrounding an individual’s absence.

Because maths pays no attention to “who”, it removes subjectivity from an analysis.

Bradford Factor disadvantages

Maths pays no attention to “why”, and the why is key to fair treatment.

The Bradford Factor only provides black and white statistics with no insight whatsoever as to the underlying causes. This means it can serve as a handy tool for analysis but shouldn’t be used in isolation when considering formal procedures linked to absence.

The Equality Act states that employers must tailor their actions to an individual’s circumstances. For example, pregnancy, or disabilities such as asthma or epilepsy, may create short-term and more frequent absences, resulting in a higher Bradford score. The reasons for an absence must therefore also be taken into account.

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Our HR software automatically incorporates the Bradford Factor into its sickness reporting system to help you evaluate the impact of staff sickness on your business.

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