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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 absence management benchmarking tool. It enables managers to assess the absence record of individual employees.

The Bradford Factor introduces score ratings to help you identify areas of concern relating to staff sickness absence. 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 short, frequent absences are more disruptive than longer absences.

To summarise The Bradford Factor, view our handy infographic below. You can also download the PDF version with links, here.

What is the Bradford Factor

How is the Bradford formula calculated?

Typically based on a rolling 52 week period, the Bradford Factor uses the formula S2 x D = B.

  • S is the total number of instances of absence an employee incurs
  • D is the total number of days’ absence they have taken
  • B is the resulting Bradford Factor score


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 lower Bradford score of 4.

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

When does a Bradford score become of concern?

Different organisations may use the Bradford Factor in a variety of ways. Many will set lower thresholds to trigger a manager / employee conversation. This will help you identify any underlying issues as early as possible.

However, this score can vary significantly depending on your industry, department and role. In some industries, work-related illness can be a typical cause of absence. For example, back problems in the construction industry or stress levels in nursing. Therefore, it’s important that you communicate with your staff to ensure they understand the reason for their absences.

How to use the Bradford Factor to best effect

  • By setting trigger points for particular scores, you can take the relevant action at the right time. For example, if a score becomes of concern, you 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, you may be able to support an employee and help them address the problem. In other cases, the fact that you have raised concerns can deter a dishonest employee from taking further spurious sick leave.
  • Similarly, you 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, you’re armed with valuable data to support those difficult decisions.
  • Aside from monitoring individual employee absence, the Bradford Factor can also help you benchmark different departments within a business. Whilst you may 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, you can then take proactive steps to increase employee engagement and wellbeing in those departments. Alternatively, you can task the heads of department with working to reduce departmental scores themselves.

Using the Bradford Factor in your business

As with any business management tool, how you introduce and deliver it is always key to its success. Whilst the Bradford Factor is aimed at improving performance, its misuse can easily have the opposite effect on your business.

If you’re going to use the Bradford Factor, it’s important to ensure your staff understand how it is calculated and that it will be applied in a fair and reasonable manner.

Setting low thresholds for concern and failing to properly discuss issues with your staff can actually lead to stress, demotivation and absence themselves. When used fairly, the Bradford Factor can be one of your most powerful absence management tools.

Using HR software to calculate Bradford Factor scores

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

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