Should your company have a sickness score?

Gavin Scarr Hall - Director of Health and Safety

July 19 2022

The sickness absence rate across UK businesses is at its highest in ten years, according to survey findings – with the average worker taking 7.3 sick days a year.

To keep tabs on staff absences, some companies use the Bradford Factor formula. By using this method, employers can score staff based on how much time they’ve taken off work.

Whether you already use a sickness score or not, here’s what you need to know…

How does the Bradford Factor work?

If you’re not familiar with the Bradford Factor, it’s a way employers calculate how many unplanned absences staff have taken during the working year.

To get your worker’s Bradford Factor score, you use this formula:

Number of absences² x days absent = Bradford Factor Score

For example, say your worker took seven sick days in the past year. The BF score they’ll get depends on how many times they’ve called in sick.

To give you an example…

  • Worker calls in sick once and is off for seven days – 1 absence x 1 absence x 7 days off = Bradford Factor Score of 7
  • Worker calls in sick seven times and is off for seven days – 7 absences x 7 absences x 7 days off = Bradford Factor Score of 343

The score is highest when staff are frequently absent. This is because generally, it’s easier to manage someone who’s off sick for a few days on one occasion, over someone who regularly takes one-off sick days.

So, the higher the score, the worse the impact on the company.

Some employers might decide that if a worker gets a certain BF score, they’ll need to pull them in for a meeting. This could lead to disciplinary action or taking steps to provide extra support.

Is it risky to introduce a sickness score?

It might seem more efficient, but there are certain risks attached to using a sickness score, like:

  • work-related stress – the fear of gaining points might cause a lot of stress for staff, which could result in more absences
  • unhealthy work behaviour – staff might come into work when they’re ill, and spread their illness to other staff, or they might take annual leave when they’re ill to avoid taking sick days
  • indirect discrimination – sometimes it’s risky to negatively score someone for absence, especially if they were off sick due to a disability. This could put you at risk of a discrimination claim

When you’re using a sickness score, you need to be careful about who you penalise. Staff might need to be absent to look after children, for health reasons, or to look after someone with a health condition. So, if you take action against them, they might accuse you of indirectly discriminating. 

It can be a good way for staff to see the bigger picture…

Particularly if you’re a small business owner, you might find that absences cause more interruption if you can’t find the cover for someone’s role.

Ultimately, a sickness score may help prevent staff from taking sick days unless it’s really necessary. And it can help them think more carefully about how their absences could affect the business in the long term.

…and help you identify the underlying cause…

A sickness score can help you flag up behaviour, and signal when your worker might be dealing with an underlying issue.

If your staff regularly call in sick with the flu or an injury, you’ll be able to spot an unusual pattern.

Your worker might have a health condition that’s affecting their role. If you notice a pattern of absences, organise a check-in with them to see if they need extra support.

…but it’s not your only option

It’s useful for some but a sickness score isn’t your only option. If you’re struggling to keep track of staff absences, you can use the sickness reporting tool. This makes keeping accurate records and downloading employee absence reports quick and easy.

Trying to do the admin yourself is time-consuming and it’s easy to overlook clashes and requests. With software, you relieve yourself of this responsibility, so you can focus on your success.

Manage staff absences with a click

Record all types of absences, snap photos of fit notes, and find available cover in seconds using BrightHR software.

Learn more

Sickness score or software? Find the right choice with HR support

It’s easy to fall into common pitfalls when it comes to staff sickness.

Worried about absences affecting your business? Save time, risk, and stress when you join Peninsula.

As a client, you have 24/7 access to:

  • employment law advice from leading HR professionals – to help you navigate complex sickness cases
  • online software - to help you log and manage doctors’ appointments, time off for dependants, and unexplained absences with ease

Keeping your staff happy and your business safe from legal risk doesn’t have to be an either-or situation.

Call us on 0800 028 2420 to find a solution that works for you.

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