The Bradford Factor

05 February 2021

Absences are a natural part of working life, it is impossible for an employee to never be sick or experience some uncontrollable issues. Around 34% of employees took 1 to 3 sick days, 13% took between 4 and 10 sick days and 51% say they didn’t take any sick days at all.

However long an employee is off work for, it's important to monitor their absence. By monitoring an employee's unplanned absence, you’ll be able to notice patterns and nip any potential problems in the bud before they get out of hand.

This helps increase productivity, as employees are in more often. It also helps address any wellbeing issues that might cause absences in the workplace by bringing them to light.

So how can you do this? That’s where the Bradford Factor can help.

Let’s explore this method of absence management and see how it can benefit your business.

What is the Bradford Factor?

It's a mathematical formula that, when used, gives you a score based on someone's absence patterns.

You can use the Bradford factor formula to calculate how the absence of employees has affected the organisation.

The idea behind it is that short, frequent, and unplanned absences can be more disruptive to the functions and demands of your organisation than long-term periods away from work.

The Bradford factor can be popular with smaller companies as it is straightforward to use and can free up time to focus on other areas.

It can also be a useful way of reducing absences, as it can encourage employees to remember how taking a day off can affect their score.

How is the Bradford Factor worked out?

It works by calculating a ‘score’ from the number of absences that an employee has had over a pre-defined period, which is usually 52 weeks.

Through this calculation, the higher the Bradford factor average scores, the higher the impact on the organisation.

Bradford factor explained

The calculation for the Bradford factor score scale (B) is as follows:

The total number of absences for an individual in the period (S) x 2 x the total number of days absent (D), or S2 x D = B.

For example, if the employee is absent twice in 52 weeks, each period lasting for five days, you would work their Bradford factor score out through the following calculation:

(2x2) x 10 = 40.

Bradford factor trigger points

You are free to set your own rules regarding how high scores need to be before you take further action.

You can do this using Bradford factor triggers, where your response depends on the score reaching a certain amount.

Trigger points are simply thresholds at which further action (i.e. warning, meeting with managers, etc.) should be taken and used correctly can be an extremely effective mechanism to monitor short-term absence.

Your company must set out how it manages this in a Bradford factor policy. The policy will show the action that is taken if a certain score is reached – e.g. Points above 90 can trigger a disciplinary procedure.

Bradford factor and the law

Although the Bradford Factor can be a useful way of determining how the absences of an employee have affected your organisation, use it with care.

For example, penalising an employee who has had several absences because of a disability might leave you liable to a discrimination claim. These carry unlimited fines and no minimum service period, making them particularly damaging.

It is therefore advisable that, even if you use this method, you consider the specifics of the absences.

A key thing to note is that it is not a compulsory way of calculating absences and their impact upon a company. It is simply one method, and there are other ways that employees can legally explore if they choose to.

Bradford factor loopholes

While a good cost-effective solution, it is not a perfect system. The system may suffer from not being specific enough.

For example, if a person is off for a long period or a person is off on multiple occasions but for the same period overall, it will be the latter person who has the worse score, although the same number of days have not been worked.

Bradford factor sickness

There are other issues to consider. Sometimes, absences can be unavoidable, and employees see using this system as a way of punishing employees for sincere absences. This can damage the employment relationship.

By discouraging employees from taking time off because of illness, the use of the system could make some conditions worse, as employees will want to avoid time away from work to recover.

There is also a discrimination angle to consider. The employee may take the time because of a disability and them receiving penalisation for a higher score could lead to costly tribunal claims. Not to mention lower workplace morale.

Expert support on absences with Peninsula

Understanding why an employee is absent is vital to a productive and happy workplace. Why employees frequently are absent can confuse, and all employees will have to deal with it at one point.

Establishing Bradford formula absence policies, monitoring absence levels, it's all important information to have at hand. Ensure that your employees understand what you expect of them.

Get our expert team to draft policy for you. Peninsula clients get access to our 24/7 HR support line to consult our HR and employment law specialists or secure air-tight contracts with our document experts.

And if you’re not yet a client, you can still enjoy a free advice call from one of our business experts. Simply call us on 0800 028 2420.

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