What is the Bradford Factor?

What is the Bradford Factor?

The Bradford Factor, also referred to as the Bradford Formula or Index, is a useful benchmarking tool that enables managers to assess the absence record of individual employees.

Developed at the Bradford University School of Management in the 1980s, the Bradford Factor introduces score ratings to help managers identify areas of concern relating to staff sickness absence.

Critically, the formula gives more weighting to regular short-term sick leave than to infrequent longer term absence.

This is because the Bradford Index supports the belief that several instances of short-term absence has a disproportionate impact on business performance compared with infrequent incidents of long term illness.

So how is the Bradford Formula calculated?

Typically based on a rolling 52 week period, the Bradford Factor uses the formula S2 x D = B. Here S is the total number of instances of absence an employee incurs, D is the total number of days’ absence they have taken and B is the resulting Bradford Factor score.

So for example an employee that has taken 1 day’s sick leave on four separate occasions will have a factor of 64. Whereas, an employee who has been off sick once in the same period for 4 days, will have a much lower Bradford score of 4.

Whilst the impact of the above two absences will vary from business to business, the Bradford factor offers a simple tool to monitor and manage sickness absence.

When does a Bradford score become of concern?

Whilst different organisations may utilise the Bradford system in a variety of ways, many will set a lower threshold that is used to trigger a manager / employee conversation to identify any underlying issues as early as possible.

However, this score can vary significantly depending on the industry, department and role. In fact, in some industries work-related illness can be a typical cause of absence, such as back problems in the construction industry or stress levels in nursing.

For this reason, it is always important that managers keep communicating with their staff to ensure they understand the reason for their absences.

How to use the Bradford Factor to best effect

The formula can be very useful to businesses in a number of ways:

  • By setting trigger points for particular scores, the manager can ensure they take the relevant action at the right time. For example, as outlined above, if a score becomes of concern, the manager can use it as a way to start a conversation about an employee’s sick leave rather than a point mandating formal action.
  • In some instances, the business may be able to support the employee and help them address the problem. In other cases, the fact that the manager has raised concerns can deter a dishonest employee from taking further spurious sick leave.
  • In a similar way, managers can also set threshold scores for taking more serious action to tackle problem absences. By setting trigger points for commencing disciplinary action or dismissing an employee, the manager is armed with valuable data to underpin those difficult decisions.
  • Aside from monitoring individual employee absence, the Bradford Factor can also be used to benchmark different departments within a business. Whilst one would expect different rates of absence between an executive board and a call centre, wildly varying scores across similar departments might indicate issues that need addressing within particular teams.

By flagging up such issues, HR managers can then take proactive steps to increase employee engagement and wellbeing in those departments. Alternatively, they can charge the heads of department with working to reduce departmental scores themselves.

Using the Bradford Index in your business

As with any business management tool, how it is introduced and delivered is always key to its success. As such, whilst the Bradford Factor is aimed at improving performance, its misuse can easily have the opposite effect.

If you are going to use the Bradford Factor in your business, it is important to ensure your staff understand how it is calculated and that it will be applied in a fair and even handed manner.

Setting extremely low thresholds for concern and failing to properly discuss an issue with staff can in fact lead to the very issues of stress and demotivation that can turn into absence.

On the other hand, when used fairly, the Bradford Factor can be one of the most powerful tools to develop an effective absence management strategy.

Want an easy way to calculate Bradford Factor scores?

To see how you can create quick and easy Bradford Factor reports on staff, departments and office locations, book a free demonstration of myhrtoolkit’s absence management software by calling 0845 225 0414.