What is a Bradford factor?

The Bradford factor is a methodology to determine an absence score for an employee’s unplanned absences. The Bradford score was formulated as part of research conducted by Bradford University School of Management in the 1980s.

The theory concluded that short, frequent spells of unplanned absence from employees are detrimental to business performance. This is detrimental in comparison to longer spells of absences.

How is Bradford score for an employee absence calculated?

The Bradford score is calculated with the formula [B = S x S x D].

B = Bradford score

S = Total number of absence instances or spells over a set period of time

D = Total number of days of absence over a set period of time

Generally, the set period of time is a financial year or 52 week period.

Let’s take an example here, an employee Mr. Adam has the following unplanned absence streaks.

Scenario A – 1st spell of 3-day absence, 2nd spell of 4-day absence, 3rd spell of 1-day absence, and 4th spell of 3-day absence. The Bradford score for scenario A will be 176 [B = 4 x 4 x 11]

Scenario B – 1st spell of 7-day absence and 2nd spell of 4-day absence. The Bradford score for scenario B will be 44 [B = 2 x 2 x 11]

Both in scenario A and B, the total number of absent days are 11. However, the scores differed due to the number of spells or frequency of absences.

Thus, as per the theory, scenario B is ideal for an organization in comparison to scenario A. HR teams can ascertain the absence impact with this formula.

What are the limitations of the Bradford score?

Although this method raises awareness on the absence impact, it fails to consider practical circumstances. There are legitimate reasons for frequent absence spells such as :

  • Chronic illness that is frequent and sudden
  • Acute physical problems like – backache, migraine, etc., which are also sporadic and sudden
  • Child sickness
  • Mental health and wellness issues

Such problems are not accounted for in the theory. Evidently, not many companies have adopted this into their practice. There are numerously debatable scenarios in the Bradford factor.

Is it a fair methodology for all?

It is debatable. As discussed above, it is a great tool to raise employee awareness on sporadic absences. But, it does not factor in legitimate reasons.

It can still be used to measure absence impact. Although, HR managers cannot dismiss or take any legal action against employees for a poor Bradford score. In the UK, employees are also protected by the Equality Act of 2010.

Is there a better method than the Bradford factor?

Yes, methods such as –

  • Lost time rate method
  • Absence frequency rate method
  • Consolidated method

These methods are straightforward. The lost time rate method formulates the percentage of lost hours to potential total work hours possible. The absence frequency method focuses only on the absence instances and not the absent days.

However, all these methods cannot be used in isolation to decide on an employee’s absence impact. HR teams still factor in their personal problems and decide the best course mutually.

HR teams are largely focusing on improving employee morale to boost productivity. A good team culture and open communication platform largely help in bringing unplanned absence rates down.

How does Papershift help manage employee absences?

Papershift is Europe’s best workforce planning software. It is loved by over 200,000+ HR managers. Take a quick look at this video from Chris to check how we help you manage absences at work.

Further, take a look at our helpdesk article on absence planning. We also urge you to book a free demo appointment with us to take a look at different possibilities to manage absences with ease.