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The Bradford Factor

June 3, 2019

The Bradford Factor was originally developed at the Bradford University School of Management in the early 1980s and is based on the theory that short, frequent, unplanned absences are more disruptive to organisations than longer absences. In other words, it is easier to plan around a member of staff who has a continuous run of sick days compared to someone who has lots of short periods of absence.

How to use The Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor uses a simple formula allowing employers to a apply a relative weighting to unplanned absences, presented as S² x D = B where:

  • S is the total number of separate absences
  • D is the total number of days absent
  • B is the overall Bradford Factor score

As the number of separate absences is squared, this has a significant effect on an employee’s overall score. For example, a one week-long absence would be calculated as (1 x 1) x 5 = 5. However, someone else may take the same number of days off, but spread them out with a couple of days here and a couple of days there. Being absent on three separate occasions would have a bigger effect on their overall score so: (3 x 3) x 5 = 45. As a guideline, point brackets could be spaced out as follows:

  • 0-49: No concern
  • 50-149: Consider Issuing a Verbal Warning
  • 150-399: Consider Issuing a First Written Warning
  • 400-649: Consider Issuing a Final Written Warning
  • Over 650: Consider Dismissal

However, employers can set the thresholds to whatever levels they deem to be problematic often with a progressive series of warnings and disciplinary actions done in order to discourage employees from taking unnecessary sick days.

The Bradford Factor in practise – is it fair?

Although a useful benchmarking and tracking tool, The Bradford Factor should not be used as a standalone staff management tool. As Captain Barbossa states in Pirates of The Caribbean, “the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules”. Staff are often seen as a company’s biggest asset making it essential that they are made to feel valued, appreciated and supported and whilst the mathematical nature ensures that everyone is measured against the same rules, it does not take into account the cause of any unplanned absence.

When determining if action needs to be taken against repeated instances of unauthorised absence it is important to be as objective as possible. Everyone has different circumstances to work with meaning that support may sometimes be needed instead of disciplinary actions and that some employees are likely to need more time off than others. Employers must make sure there are safeguards in place to protect employees with medical conditions that may cause irregular absence patterns and must not discriminate against employees with disabilities. Further to this, employees are legally entitled to time off to deal with care issues for dependants. Adjusting the trigger points for employees with known mitigating circumstances can help to make the use of The Bradford Factor and treatment of staff fairer as well as remembering that it is not a crime to be ill!


Hannah CI-8

Hannah Cheshire

Part of the ClockedIn family since: 2018

Favourite quote: “Not all storms come to disrupt your life. Some come to clear your path.”