HRIS Strategy

The Bradford Factor: Should we be using better technology to measure absenteeism?

4 mn 13 Jan 2020

When managing large teams, it’s important to understand how disruptive sickness is to a business – and it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your absence levels. Loss of working hours will more than likely mean loss of revenue which can damage your progress to meet a deadline or target. With this guide, we’ll explore a formula to help you monitor and control absence levels.  


What is the Bradford Factor?  

The Bradford Factor is a calculation used to assess an employee’s absence record, providing a score to help you to see how disruptive it is. It looks into the number of instances the employee is off sick within a set period and the duration of the instances – and uses the logic that lots of short term absences are more disruptive than one longer period of time off.  

It was developed during the 1980s at Bradford University School of Management in the UK, hence the name.     


The Bradford Factor Formula   

To calculate the Bradford formula, you’ll need to include the following:  

  • Total number of spells of absence over a period of time for the individual (S) 
  • Total number of days the individual was absent during the spell over a set period of time (D) 


Bradford Factor score (B)= S² x D 

 From this, you can give an employee a score which can help you assign ‘prompts of concern’ along a scale when certain scores are reached. This is where you’ll be able to monitor how an employee is performing. For example, you can issue a verbal warning at a lower level, then a written warning, final written warning and, as a final action, dismissal if absence becomes a severe problem.  


Bradford Factor advantages 

There are several advantages and disadvantages to using the Bradford Factor to measure absences. It is a clear formula to understand and can be rolled out across the board no matter the employee’s working hours or type of contract. Some would consider the Bradford Factor to be fair as it leaves it up to a formula and takes emotion out of the equation and there’s no room for human error. As a result, some believe this takes any bias out of the situation.  


Bradford Factor disadvantages 

Some employees may feel the Bradford Factor is unfair as it does not highlight or consider disability or condition that might lead to a higher chance of short term illness, including mental health conditions.  

If you do wish to use this system, some weighting from HR should manage each employee as a case by case basis. They need to take into consideration any disability or declared medical or mental conditions as this could impact their work attendance and should not be used against them or trigger the prompts of concern.   


Alternatives to the Bradford Factor points system 

With a system that was developed in the 1980s, you’d expect some evolution of the Bradford Factor. With this, here are some popular alternatives.  

  • Lost time rate

The lost time rate is a simple calculation that looks at the hours lost compared to the maximum potential hours for an employee. Unlike the Bradford Factor, this is often applied across a team rather than to an individual. 

For example, for a team of 10 who all work six hours a day, the maximum potential hours work a week would be 300. If three employees are off sick for one day each the loss of hours would be 18.  

18 (hours lost) divided by 300 (potential hours) = 6% lost time rate.

The positives to this are that a team’s absences and disruption can be calculated collectively, which not only helps build a commutative work ethic, but it can help keep you from being biased as it doesn’t look at individual cases and concentrates solely on a collective ability to be able to deliver work, time and tasks.            

  • Frequency rate

Testing the frequency rate is another Bradford Factor alternative that’s often used. It looks at how many individual spells of absence are taking place within your business.  

An absence spell is one whole duration of when an employee is not at work. For example, if an employee is off sick for three consecutive days in a row, it still counts as one absence spell. You’ll need to calculate the absence spells by the total number of employees.  

If you have 20 employees and two employees take two consecutive days off each, the number of absence spells is two. The number would remain the same if the two employees took one day off each.  

Two (absence spells) divided by 20 (employees) = 10% frequency rate

This calculation is good to assess as it helps managers see if there are any red flags over a certain period of time that need to be addressed. Frequent absences are disruptive to the business as you can’t plan or prepare for them.     

Calculating the lost time rate or the frequency rate is good for looking at a whole team to see if there’s a general issue with people not being at work. The Bradford Factor can help you to identify the people for whom the absence rates are highest. With this, you may want to use a combination of the three measures to create a complete picture of absenteeism. 


Do remember 

It’s good to remember that these formulas can not only help you address any absences but it can help you better understand why an employee is off sick so much. Some employees may not feel comfortable asking for help during tough personal matters but these formulas can identify patterns. 

Address each issue with the employee in question to ensure they’re ok and to see if they need extra support. Use tools to prompt meetings, highlight issues and inform policies – but never use them without the ‘human touch’. 






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