The Bradford Factor is a method of calculating absence in order to put a ‘weighting’ on the absence.

For example; a Company will probably be more concerned (and experience more disruption) from frequent odd days sickness, than from an employee who has one period of absence for a week.

The Bradford Factor allows you to distinguish between the different types of absence.

It is important to remember that The Bradford Factor is only one method of looking at absence. It may not be appropriate for all organisations and should certainly not be used in isolation.

How to Calculate the Bradford Factor

The Bradford factor calculation is as follows:

S x S x D = Bradford points score

Where: S is the number of occasions of absence in the last 52 weeks and D is the total number of days’ absence in the last 52 weeks.
So, for employees with a total of 14 days’ absence, for example, in one rolling 52-week period, the Bradford score can vary enormously, depending on the number of occasions involved.

So, for example:

*       one absence of 14 days is 14 points (ie 1 x 1 x 14)
*       seven absences of two days each is 686 points (ie 7 x 7 x 14)

*       14 absences of one day each is 2,744 points (ie 14 x 14 x 14)

Although a rolling year is common, other timescales such as 13 weeks may be used.

Why short-term absence matters

It is often easier to make arrangements to cover staff who are going to be off for long periods, and which are more likely to be caused by genuine illness. However, employees taking odd days off here and there are more problematic, can have an immediate impact, and, if repeated, are likely to arouse suspicions over how genuine they are – it can be hard to get medical certification for a single day of absence.

If unchecked, this type of absence can send out the wrong signals to colleagues who, in some jobs, are likely to have to cover for those absent. Frequent short-term absence may have serious repercussions where staff are employed in customer-facing roles or employed on production lines. The impact of absence may be most directly felt and the need to arrange cover at short notice may

A system of triggers for action

The idea of the Bradford Factor is to have a trigger point where you start to review absence. The number of Bradford points that trigger an absence review will vary among employers.

Examples include 27 points (in a 13-week period) to 350 (over a year). Often the process starts at around 50 points, which prompts an initial review. Higher scores may prompt an escalation to further action.

For example, at one company, if 80 points are reached the employee is counselled by the team leader; 100 points may trigger a disciplinary meeting. At another company, 50 to 189 points may trigger a verbal warning; 190 to 499 points may result in a first written warning and 500 to 999 may prompt a final written warning.

In some cases, a lower-than-standard Bradford score may be used to trigger action for individuals with a history of problems or if, for example, all the absences are around weekends.

Some employers combine Bradford scores with a requirement that once in the system individuals are then expected to have a clean absence record for a further period, say 13 weeks. Any further absence may automatically move them up to the next stage in the procedure.

Depends on accurate absence recording

Of course, for the Bradford factor to make a difference the data that triggers it has to be accurately recorded in the first place and any process needs to be consistently applied.

Some reservations about Bradford

A criticism of the Bradford factor is that it can appear unnecessarily complicated and that it is a non-scientific and ‘crude’ method, giving certain types of absence an extreme weighting. This may be the case but so long as it is not used in isolation, it can be a useful indicator and gives managers information on which to open up their conversation with the absentee.

Taking account of legitimate absence

Sometimes concerns are expressed that many cases of short-term, frequent absence are legitimate and employees are wrongly being put under suspicion. But this can be dealt with by excluding certain types of absence from the calculations. By applying a modicum of common sense, absence related for example, to pregnancy, a disability or underlying illness will, after a conversation with the employee concerned, be quickly eliminated from the points total. The investigation into the causes may in fact lead to changes to work arrangements that can help alleviate or remedy the situation.

Not relying on Bradford in isolation

The safest approach is to make sure that any important decisions, such as disciplinary action, are not based around Bradford scores alone. The scores act best as a trigger to prompt line managers to investigate a case further – when consistency and fairness have to be applied and where each individual case may be different.

Evidence of a deterrent effect

Above all, the Bradford factor can be a visible warning to employees that certain types and frequencies of absence are monitored. Some employees may become wise to how the points system works but these are likely to be few and far between and a number of companies reported that using Bradford had played a part in reducing absence, especially when it was first introduced.


Sources include: IDS
Paula Fisher, Managing Director, is a Human Resources (HR) professional who has worked in HR for over 25 years.

She has held senior HR management positions within corporate organisations and in 1997 completed a Law Degree, graduating with a 1st class honours. She went on to achieve a Master Degree (LL.M) in Employment Law and Employee Relations and has taught employment law at Anglia Ruskin University on the CIPD course (Certified Institute of Personnel & Development).Paula is now the Managing Director (and Founder) of Practical HR Ltd, an HR Consultancy that provides support to SME’s throughout Essex.

Practical HR was formed to provide employment law and human resources support services to organisations to help them meet legal requirements, protect the business and promote positive employee relations (to the benefit of both the organisation and employees).

The services available from Practical HR therefore span many HR disciplines including performance management, training, administration, flexible benefit schemes, etc.

Practical HR aims to put organisations ‘back in control’ when it comes to dealing with any employment issue. And the majority of support therefore concentrates on the employment law aspects of HR including; legal compliance (e.g. contract of employment, policies and procedures); managing performance and conduct issues; managing grievances; restructuring and redundancies

Website: Practical HR