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Managing Absenteeism : How the Bradford Factor can assist you with HR problems concerning absenteeism and unreliability.

Absenteeism and unreliability are problems that continue to beset employers and when providing HR and Employment law advice to our clients we are often asked to comment on the Bradford Factor.

The Bradford Factor (also known as the Bradford Index or the Bradford Formula) is one of a number of HR tools that is used for managing absenteeism which seeks to give some measurable value to a pattern of absence. It regularly features in HR Policies for managing absenteeism and can help employers determine the correct HR management approach. It should be noted that it is not the only approach to use and it is quite feasible for employers to create their own HR policy for dealing with absence and unreliability. For it to work effectively it requires good absence records and strong discipline to keep things up to date. 

 It scores an employee’s absence record based on the number of times (separate periods of absence) they have been absent and the length of time absent (total lost time), giving a higher weighting to the number of times absent. The value is usually calculated over a rolling year, the higher the score generally being viewed as indicating the more disruption that absentee is causing to the organisation. It enables a focus on the unreliability impact that frequent short term absences can have.  

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The Bradford Factor calculation is as follows

Bradford factor score = number of times absent x number of times absent x total number of days absent

Example 1

Employee is absent 5 times, two days each time (a total of 10 days)

            Bradford factor score  = 5 x 5 x 10 = 250

Example 2

Employee absent 1 time for 10 days

            Bradford factor score  = 1 x 1 x 10 =10 

The Bradford Factor is usually used to determine when triggers for actions to manage absenteeism occur. But there are no set rules for using the Bradford Factor; it is down to each organisation to determine the ways in which it uses the score, where the trigger points are set and what the resulting actions may be. Consequently it is open to abuse and can lead to accusations of victimisation. Employers need to follow strict guides to ensure that disciplinary measures based on the Bradford Factor are proportionate and progressive, and that any move towards dismissal will be seen as ‘fair’. 

The Bradford factor when used properly can be a useful tool to manage absenteeism. It strengths lie in the fact that it

  • highlights patterns of absenteeism that give cause for concern

  • can be used to enforce standard procedures managing absenteeism across an organisation

  • can remove the potential for differences across departments or by different managers

  • can alleviate the difficulties and reluctance that line managers may face when having to discipline a close staff member.

However it is important to remember that any good absence management system must provide safeguards for employees with genuine serious conditions and disabilities, to ensure that these employees are treated fairly and do not receive inappropriate warnings.

As the Bradford factor calculation weights the number of times an employee is absent it penalises those who take one day off fairly regularly. There is a danger therefore that some employees may turn in for work when they are still ill. This can have severe implications; for example those employees who work with food must ensure they are fully recovered, so as not to pass on any illness to customers. There is also a danger that Bradford factor schemes may actually encourage workers to take more time-off than they might otherwise, but on fewer occasions, as this actually reduces their Bradford factor score.

Sentient are experts in managing absenteeism and can provide numerous tools to help any organisation. More importantly we provide help and guidance to ensure that any absence management system is fair, keeps the employer on the right side of the law and reduces the risk to the employer of unfair dismissal or discrimination claims by an employee. 


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