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The Bradford Factor and disability: adding flexibility to absence procedures

Bradford Factor and disability

In this article, we discuss the Bradford Factor and disability, focusing on how this staff absence management formula interacts with approaches to managing workers with disabilities.

The Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor is a simple and useful formula for measuring levels and patterns of absence in the workplace. As a benchmark for absence (that is available within our absence management module), employers and HR managers often use the Bradford Factor to identify instances of absenteeism (taking sick days without a genuine reason).

The formula places attention on frequent, short absences; it can be useful for identifying instances where an employee tends to have ‘long weekends’ using sick leave, for example.

When the Bradford Factor interacts with disability

One of the disadvantages of the Bradford Factor is that it doesn’t take extenuating circumstances into account. This prominently includes disabilities, which require an empathetic and contextual approach that a formula alone cannot provide.

This relates to the Equality Act (2010), which lists disability as a protected characteristic. In section 15, the Act states that:

“A person (A) discriminates against a disabled person (B) if—

(a) A treats B unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of B’s disability, and

(b) A cannot show that the treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.”

In light of this, employers could consider making reasonable adjustments to how they measure Bradford Factor scores for staff with disabilities. Response strategies can be tailored to ensure these considerations are at the forefront of an employer’s response to absence.

For instance, some organisations count disability related absence differently to general sickness absences. This means that disabled workers are less likely to surpass sickness trigger points where absence management procedures would usually kick in.

The Bradford Factor and mental health

As is true for all disabilities, workers with mental health conditions require an empathetic approach. However, when it comes to mental health, there can be extra layers of difficulty involved for employees and employers alike.

Workers with a mental health condition may feel uncomfortable discussing it due to fear of stigma, in addition to the difficult symptoms of the condition itself. Of course, this will vary from person to person. However, it is important to consider stigma, which affects 9 in 10 people with a mental health condition according to the Mental Health Foundation.

Related post: Improving employee mental health at work

In trying to cope with a mental health condition, an employee may need to take time off. This is why it’s also important to consider Bradford Factor scores in relation to underlying stress and mental health issues. If conducted without understanding, a communication or meeting about absence could make dealing with the condition even harder. This is particularly true for workers who experience stress and anxiety.

Need more information on how to approach mental health in the workplace? Mind have set up a mental health and work hub full of useful information here.

Ensuring disabilities are accounted for

In order to ensure workers with disabilities are receiving the support they need, it’s important to have an open approach. Particularly in cases related to mental health, workers may not realise that support and adjustments are available to them – or indeed that they can identify as having a disability.

Of course, it is the individual’s choice whether to disclose a disability or not, or whether to request reasonable adjustments. However, it’s beneficial to keep your channels open about the validity of disability and details about your approach. This can help staff feel safer and more comfortable about disclosing.

Having all the information you need in one place

It’s always helpful to have all the information you require to make informed HR decisions in one place – that’s why many SMEs choose HR software to organise their information and documents in a centralised, secure online hub such as myhrtoolkit.

To find out more about how our software helps organisations thrive with HR management, get in touch.

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