The U.K.’s Bradford Factor: A Tool for Monitoring Unplanned Absences

Article main image
Apr 27, 2018

The “Bradford factor” describes the use of a special formula that calculates a score for each individual employee based on the amount of absences they have had, and the length of those absences. This formula is used in order to objectively assess and minimise absences within the organisation.

You may have heard of the Bradford factor before as it’s used by some of the largest organisations in the UK public sector, including the National Health Service and the UK prison service. The theory behind he Bradford factor is that multiple, unplanned short absences are more disruptive and therefor more costly to an organization than infrequent sick days even of longer duration. The formula weights the number of instances more heavily that the total days off.

The use of the Bradford Factor been highly criticised as well as promoted by many senior managers and HR experts, which shows that the use of this rating scale may not be as straight forward as it seems.

The Bradford factor calculation

The formula below shows the simplicity of the Bradford factor, based on two values alone:

  • S: the number of absences recorded for the employee, and
  • D: the total number of days of absence over the same period

Using this calculation, multiple short term absences would equal a much higher score than one long-term absence, which places a greater focus on minimising the rates of one-day sickness leave.

Trigger points and actions

Each organisation can set its own “trigger points.” This would be the total amount of points over a given period that would trigger a formal warning and/or disciplinary action. You may choose to monitor each employee on a year-to-year basis and set your trigger point for a verbal warning at 50, a written warning at 200, a final warning at 400 and dismissal at 500, for example.

This is completely up to the organisation; however the trigger points should be clearly stated to the employee at the start of their employment, or during the introductory stage of implementing the Bradford factor within your organisation.

Why use the Bradford factor?

Ease of use — The formula is very easy to use and requires little HR knowledge or skill. Each employee is assessed in the exact same way without any exceptions, helping managers to quickly see where problems have arisen and how they might need to respond to these in a completely impartial way.

Efficiency — With each absence, the Bradford score gets recalculated and shows immediately if an action is required and, if so, what action needs to be taken. There is no need to overcomplicate any process or make any tough decisions, which leaves the company safe from discrimination claims or other claims of unfairly targeting individuals.

Reduced absence — As employees will clearly understand the repercussions of reaching specific trigger points, they are consequently less likely to take the odd sick day, knowing the effect can be more costly than just lost wages. When the UK prison service introduced the use of the Bradford factor, together with other measures, this reduced rates of absenteeism by 25%.

Some cautions

In the UK, as in the US, there are governmental rules protecting the disabled, as well as provisions for leave for medical and family purposes. Employers using the Bradford factor or who might want to test it, need to take into account employees whose absences could fall under one of these protections.

It is equally important to consider how to handle workers who are allowed to work remotely, especially from home. This article — What Do You Do About “Out Sick” Workers Working From Home? — offers guidance on establishing policies.