How should you use the Bradford Factor?
The Bradford Factor is a formula used in HR management for calculating absenteeism, in particular short-term workplace absence. What it isn’t is a prescriptive guide to dealing with that absence. So once you’ve made your Bradford Factor calculations, what should you do with them?
Frequent short-term sick absences are always a cause for concern, particularly within small businesses where their effect is often more pronounced because the workforce is smaller. The Bradford Factor (so called because it was developed by Bradford University School of Management in the 1980s) is a simple formula devised to help manage short term sick absence by giving each absence a score that enables easy comparison.
The calculation for the Bradford Factor (B) is Number of Occasions Sick (S) x Number of Occasions Sick (S) x Total Number of Days Absent (D), or B = S² x D.
As you’ll have noticed, the number of periods of sickness is the figure that gets squared, making frequency of absence (rather than duration) the key driver in generating a higher score.
So employee A, who takes 3 spells of absence each lasting 3 days (for things like upset stomachs, colds etc) scores 81 on the Bradford Factor, while employee B’s single spell of 6 weeks absent with a broken leg scores 30.
But once you have your score, what happens next?
The Bradford Factor can be a powerful tool in tackling cultural absenteeism in those organisations where taking a ‘duvet day’ is seen as ‘the done thing’. Making the Bradford Factor score a part of return to work interviews – and demonstrating how short term absences can impact a business – reduced absenteeism in the UK Prison Service by 25% (as part of a package of wider measures).
Bradford Factor scores can be used as the trigger for action by line managers and/or HR. Because the calculation is a simple one, using the Bradford Factor as the driver for interviews, first warnings etc can be a transparent, objective way of managing HR processes.
As with all absence management tools, Bradford Factor scores tend not to be taken in isolation, but they can prove a valuable, consistent indicator of the type and timing of management interventions that need to be considered.
Typical thresholds are:
- 0-49 | No action required
- 50-124 | Consider Issuing a Verbal Warning
- 125-399 | Consider Issuing a First Written Warning
- 400-649 | Consider Issuing a Final Written Warning
- 650+ | Consider Dismissal
A Bradford Factor score won’t, of itself, tell you that every absence occurred on a Monday/Friday, but using the score to trigger further investigation can help highlight patterns over the longer term.
Choosing a workforce management system that calculates Bradford Factor scores for you reduces the burden on stretched managers and HR teams. It also eliminates the chances of missing a series of absences that warrant intervention.