If you’re an entrepreneur and business owner, you’ve probably heard of or even been asked to fill out the Bradford Factor survey, but do you know exactly what it is? More importantly, are you using it in your business to its full potential? Read on to learn everything there is to know about the Bradford Factor, from how it works to how you can use it to your advantage, as well as some downsides that might deter you from filling it out after all.
What is the Bradford Factor?
The Bradford Factor is a way of measuring an employee’s absenteeism and is intended to highlight frequent short-term absence. The Bradford Factor can also be referred to as the Bradford Index or Bradford Formula.
Why use the Bradford Factor?
The Bradford Factor is usually used as a tool in part of the wider absence management process as opposed to a standalone tool. This is because of its heavy weighting on frequent short-term absence, which on its own could potentially be considered unfair or discriminatory.
The tool can be used to identify trends and underlying patterns across the workforce and in an individual’s absenteeism.
The Bradford Factor can also be used to set trigger points based on the score. Trigger points would typically be set to lead to an absence review and potential disciplinary action. However, prior to the latter stage trigger points can be used more positively. Whether the trigger prompts an absence review or a simple conversation between managers and employees, there is an opportunity to understand any issues from both sides. With this insight, the organisation can look at whether any adjustments can be made to support the individual and ultimately reduce absence.
What is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Bradford factor score?
Higher scores suggest an employee’s absence rate is having a more negative impact on the organisation.
For example, if an employee is absent once in 52 weeks for 10 days, their Bradford factor score is:
(1×1) x 10 = 10
If an employee is absent twice in 52 weeks for five days at a time, their Bradford factor score is:
(2×2) x 10 = 40
And if an employee is absent 10 times in 52 weeks for one day at a time, their Bradford factor score is:
(10×10) x 10 = 1,000
In these three scenarios, the employee has been absent from work for the same length of time, but the shorter, more frequent absences generate a higher Bradford factor score.
What is a high Bradford Factor Score?
There is no definitive answer as to what a high score is, as each organisation sets its own trigger points. For example, one organisation might consider 100 points to be the stage at which an absence review is first triggered, whereas another may set it at 180 points.
Bradford Factor Calculator
The Bradford Factor is calculated with the following formula:
B = S² x D
B = Bradford Factor
S = Spells or number of occasions of unauthorised absence (in the formula this is squared (multiplied by itself))
D = Total number of days absent
Over the last 12 months, Employee A has been absent from work on 6 occasions due to sickness. These 6 occasions account for 8 days of absence in total over the 12 month period.
Employee A’s Bradford Factor score is 288 which is calculated by:
S x S x D = Bradford Factor
6 x 6 x 8 = 288
Over the last 12 months, Employee B has been absent from work on 2 occasions due to sickness. These 2 occasions account for 16 days of absence in total over the 12 month period.
Employee B’s Bradford Factor score is 64 which is calculated by:
S x S x D = Bradford Factor
2 x 2 x 16 = 64
It can be seen that although Employee A has taken less sickness absence in total over the same period, he/she has a higher Bradford Factor Score than Employee B due to there being more frequent spells of absence than with Employee B.
The reasoning behind this outcome is that frequent short-term absence is generally considered more problematic for organisations. Whereas absences of a longer-term could possibly be planned for in order to minimise disruption and impact on other employees.
Bradford Factor advantages
Reduces absence: The main reason any organisation will use the Bradford Factor is to reduce its absenteeism. It encourages employees to only take the day off when it’s absolutely necessary, and makes them think carefully about their short-term absences will negatively score them in the long-term.
Saves time: HR teams are becoming overworked and admin is stealing time away from focusing on employee needs. The Bradford Factor equips the HR team with an easy way to monitor absentee issues and react accordingly without the need for time-consuming, manual analysis.
Bradford Factor disadvantages
- Lacks detail: The Bradford Factor only accounts for the mathematical nature of absenteeism, not the underlying issues causing it. For example, an employee who regularly takes sick leave on particular days may have a genuine reason, such as a chronic condition or mental health issues, but is completely ignored when using the Bradford Factor.
- Potentially increases stress: The Bradford Factor is designed to help reduce instances of absence, but may have the opposite effect in some circumstances. If you set your absence scores too low, this could trigger early meetings or warnings and cause undue stress for the employee.
- Assumes every department is a one-size fits all: Depending on job role, industry or location, there may be circumstances where employees are more likely to take a sick day. For example, someone working in catering and prepares food daily may require more time off due to health and safety reasons than someone who works in an office.
Alternatives to the Bradford Factor
Other triggers to measure absence might include:
The number of occasions an employee has been absent over a set period, such as 3 occasions in 12 months.
The total number of days absent over a set period, such as 12 days in 12 months.
Bradford Factor Score in Natural HR
Our HR Software can be used to calculate a Bradford Factor Score based on unauthorised time off, over a timeframe that you specify. The score is shown on an individual’s electronic personnel file, as shown below.
Bradford Factor Report in HRLocker
We also have a Bradford Factor Report which allows you to filter employees based on your specified trigger points.
You can also analyse Bradford Factor Scores across Sites, Departments and Managers to help you identify any emerging themes in the data you’re collecting. The reports can then be exported as a CSV file, which allows you to store and manipulate the data in a spreadsheet or a PDF file that could be emailed to your colleagues who need to see the data. Alternatively, the reports can be printed as they are displayed in our system. Book a demo to find out how we can help you with automatically calculating a Bradford Factor Score for your employees and company.
Please note the numbers and triggers mentioned in this post are for illustrative purposes.
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