Everything you need to know about the Bradford Factor score

Monitoring the success of a business can be challenging work as it relies on a lot of data from a lot of different areas. It is important to take all factors into account, and one such factor is employee absenteeism. The Bradford Factor is a tool that helps figure this out.

It may sound trivial but when you consider that employees lying about being sick cost UK businesses £5.6 billion in 2019, it’s a costly consideration to ignore! The good news, however, is that when it comes to assessing the impact of your staff missing work the Bradford Factor really does help.

If you work in human resources, you have probably already heard of it, but for those of you that haven’t encountered it before let's explain what is the Bradford Factor and what is a good Bradford Factor score.

History of the Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor is a concept that originates from the 1980s. Researchers at the Bradford University School of Management in UK created the formula to allow businesses to assess the impact of employee absences over a given period. The original research revealed that lots of short-term absences have more of a negative impact on a business than one long-term absence.

HR departments across the nation now use the Bradford Factor to measure the impact of an employee missing work. But how do you work out a Bradford Score? What really is a good Bradford Score for your business? And how does using the Bradford Factor add value for your organisation?

This blog post will look to answer all these questions, and by the end of it you will know all you need to know about the Bradford Factor.

How to Work Out a Bradford Factor Score

Calculating the Bradford Score for your staff gives you an overall idea of the effect an employee’s absence had on the day-to-day business. The Bradford Factor can be calculated by using the following formula:

  • B = S² x D

  • B is the Bradford Factor score.

  • S is the total amount of different absences by an individual. Multiply this number by itself.

  • D is the total amount of days of absence of that individual.

It is important to note what we mean by absences here. These are any occurrences of unplanned time off work for an employee. It could be due to sickness, medical or dental appointments, family emergencies, or unauthorised absences. It does not include absences that are approved in advance, like annual leave.

The calculation above looks a lot more complicated than it is, so let’s look at a quick example:

Imagine you have two employees that both had 12 days absence over a 12-month period. Employee A had one 12-day absence, while Employee B had 12 separate 1-day absences.

Without working out the Bradford Score for each of these employees, we can only assume the impact of their absences is the same. But using the formula tells us that is far from the truth.

Employee A’s Bradford Score for the year would be 12, while Employee B’s score would be 1728.

Now that we understand the formula, we need to know how to read the results. 

What is a Good Bradford Factor Score?

When you use the Bradford Factor, you need to know that a higher score means a bigger negative impact on the business. Generally, a Bradford Factor score below 50 is unlikely to merit concern. This is the one HR assessment where you are always hoping for a low score. However, each business that uses the Bradford Factor has their own unique thresholds for high and low scores.

This is a handy way of monitoring staff absence over a set period. Many organisations will set a ‘trigger point’ within their Bradford Factor scoring system, where certain scores will prompt action such as a meeting with the employee, verbal or written warnings, or even dismissal.

What is a Bad Bradford Factor Score?

A bad Bradford Factor score is a high score. Essentially, the higher the score, the worse an employee’s attendance record. In some cases, a Bradford Factor score higher than 500 could be used as justification for dismissal. Scores between 200 and 500 indicate serious absenteeism concerns and may require addressing the issue. 

However, some companies have much lower thresholds to begin taking investigation or action. It completely depends on the business. One public sector employer has four trigger points: A verbal warning for 51 points, a first written warning for 201 points, a final warning for 401 points, and 601 points is grounds for dismissal.

Using our earlier example, Employee A wouldn’t even be given a verbal warning with this format. On the other hand, Employee B is way over the final warning threshold and would likely face dismissal if their employer were using the above matrix.

Does the Bradford Factor Really Work?

Many organisations have seen success with using the Bradford Factor in their HR department, and report a big motivational effect connected with showing employees their Bradford Scores. In addition, alongside some other measures, the Bradford Factor enabled the UK prison service to reduce staff absences by 25% in 2006.

However, the effectiveness of the Bradford Factor is still widely debated. Some argue that the mathematical formula does not make allowances for employees with disabilities or long-term conditions, which are more likely to result in short term absences rather than long term.

It is therefore advisable to set different trigger points for people with known circumstances to avoid indirectly discriminating employees with health conditions, disabilities, or dependents.

Other tips for Implementing the Bradford Factor

It goes without saying that absences should be handled with sensitivity, and we therefore recommend that the Bradford Factor is not used in isolation. The Bradford Factor method is great to help you identify where there might be a problem, but you shouldn’t let the numbers make the decisions. Instead, maximise the use of the formula by using it in conjunction with a scheduling tool like Findmyshift and qualified HR professionals.

When you identify an employee with a ‘high’ score, try sitting down for an informal chat with your employee to check there isn’t a deeper issue that you can address together Their absence could be due to stress, a workplace issue, or an existing healthcare condition you did not already know about.

It is also important to remember the costs associated with hiring new staff when compared with supporting the health and well-being of your existing employees. Rather than using the Bradford Factor formula as a tool to identify who you should dismiss from your company, utilise it as a way of discovering where you can make improvements.

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