Bradford Factor

05 February 2021

Absences are a natural part of working life. It's very common for employees to take days of sickness absence.

Many employers use the 'Bradford Factor' to track these absent days. The system helps manage all forms of absenteeism during work.

But these systems can easily discriminate against some employees. And may result in tribunal claims and expensive fines.

In this guide, we'll look at what the Bradford Factor is, what the scores mean, and how to manage staff absence.

What is the Bradford Factor?

The Bradford Factor is a formula used to calculate absent days.

Bradford University School of Management were the first to use the system in the 1980s, and it's still used by companies today.

The mathematical formula creates a score that can be used to manage staff absences and lost work hours. For example, days absent from work can cause lost hours for the business.

You shouldn't use the Bradford Factor for annual leave or public holidays. It's only used for 'unplanned absences', like sickness absence.

Frequent or short-term absences should be tracked because huge work hours are lost. The total number of staff absences can ruin your business performance.

An employee shaking a colleagues hand following a period of absence

How does the Bradford Factor work?

The Bradford Factor uses a simple formula to account for absenteeism: S² x D = B.

Let's break the Bradford formula down and see what each letter stands for.

  • S or Spells: This is the number of separate absences. (It’s usually tracked over a set period, like one work year).
  • D or Days: This is the total number of days absent (in the same set period).
  • B or Bradford: This is the final Bradford Factor score.

For example, if the employee is absent for two periods over 52 weeks. Each period lasts for five days each. The employee's Bradford score is: (2x2) x 10 = 40.

The Bradford formula can be used for any size companies. Many businesses and government organisations use it to track days of absence.

What are the Bradford Factor Scores?

Once you've calculated an employee’s Bradford scores, you need to decide what action to take.

Most companies have their own guidelines which include 'trigger points'. These points link a Bradford score to a reasonable consequence.

A lower Bradford score isn’t cause for serious concern. (This is something the average employee may have). However, a higher score may cause a bigger negative impact.

Here is an example of Bradford Factor absence score:

  • Under 50: A low score means no serious concern.
  • Over 50: The start of basic monitoring.
  • Over 100: Seeing repeat episodes or a pattern form.
  • Over 200: A verbal discussion may be held.
  • Between 200 to 500: A first written warning can be presented.
  • Over 500: Potential grounds for further disciplinary action, like a final written warning. (This is after following a fair process and all legal rights are given).

Every business should have their own Bradford Factor trigger points. That's because your absence rates may depend on your line of work.

Certain jobs are laborious or have a higher risk of injury. In this instance, you’ll may increase the scores for employee absences. This is to allow staff time off to recover following periods of injury or fatigue.

Is the Bradford Factor legal?

In simple terms, yes - the Bradford Factor is legal. But your scoring methods must be fair under the law.

As we've mentioned, every business will have its own Bradford Factor scores and systems. They need to be reasonable, fair and should be applied across your whole workforce. But it's important to treat every absence as its own case.

Sometimes, an employee will take leave for things beyond their control. Like, being ill or personal emergencies. You can’t just dismiss someone for having a high score. Instead, you need to look at the reasons behind their absence.

For example, staff with disabilities usually take more sick days. These are known circumstances, so you can't discipline them based on a high Bradford Factor score.

If you do, they could raise a disability discrimination claim against you. And these aren't easy to deal with. Discrimination claims go through an employment tribunal system. Tribunal judges will look at the claim and review any evidence of unlawful discrimination.

You could end up paying unlimited fines and legal fees. This can also affect your business’ reputation.

woman working on a laptop in a cafe.

How to use the Bradford Factor for absence management

It's important to keep on top of every absence period. By doing so, you can calculate any losses you may face - protecting the overall running of your business.

But remember, the Bradford Factor is just one cog in the system. Let's look at how to use the Bradford Factor for absence management:

Create your Bradford Factor rules

Every business has rules for their own work output and staff. And it's the same with your absence management.

The first step to take is to create your Bradford Factor rules. You need to set rules on scores, trigger points, and disciplinary action.

Make sure your Bradford Factor system suits your line of work. And is fair across your whole team.

The best way to present your rules is through employment contracts and handbooks. Offer them when employees first join your company. And update staff when you make changes to your absence rules.

Use a Bradford Factor calculator

It might seem like a simple formula to follow. But there's always room for mistakes.

Using the Bradford Factor calculator is the best way to do this. It helps lower the chance of false calculation and human errors.

Every calculation will accurately record staff absenteeism. You won't have to rely on HR departments to 'do the maths' themselves.

There are several ways you can calculate employee unplanned absences. Like, using a Bradford Factor calculator or other HR software.

Add it to your absence management process

Many companies make the mistake of using the Bradford Factor score by itself.

It's not advisable to track an employee's total number of absence through this alone. Instead, you should add it to your absence management process.

Employers need to manage absences with care and sensitivity. You never know an employee's ‘real’ reason for taking leave. So, talk to them about any problems they’re going through.

In the end, the Bradford Factor is a mathematical formula. It sees employees as numbers or statistics. That's why it's important not to use it alone. You'll also be able to help the employee with any personal problems that are affecting their work attendance.

Keep your Bradford Factor score fair

It's so important to measure staff absence in a fair manner. And that includes your Bradford Factor system.

It doesn't matter if two employees have the same Bradford Factor score. Their reasons for absence are personal and separate.

For example, an employee has long-term health conditions. It doesn't mean you should discipline them for having a high score. Instead, you need to make sure you follow a fair management process.

an empty meeting room

Get expert advice on Bradford Factor with Peninsula

When it comes to absenteeism, you need to remember one thing. You've got to deal with any absence concern on a one-to-one basis.

Before you tally up Bradford scores, have an informal chat with the employee. That way, you'll be able to address the issue head on and avoid any misunderstandings.

Peninsula offers expert advice on the Bradford Factor. Our HR team offers unlimited 24/7 HR employment advice which is available 365 days a year.

Want more information about the Bradford Factor? Seek advice from one of our HR advisors. For further information, call our telephone number 0800 028 2420.

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