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What is the Bradford Factor?

What is the Bradford Factor?

Taking time off is important for everyone. For employees, it helps them recharge and maintain a healthy work-life balance. But from a business perspective, it can be challenging to manage employee vacations and multiple requests for time off – so how do you determine which requests have merit?

Guide to manage people

While paid time off and sick days are mandatory, many employers struggle with judging whether their employees’ time off is affecting work and processes. Enter the Bradford Factor, a calculation that claims to measure whether an employee’s absence is disruptive or unhealthy.

The theory that underscores the Bradford Factor is that longer absences are less disruptive than frequent, short ones. It helps HR departments measure how absenteeism affects a business.

With flexible working becoming the norm, it could prove to be a useful tool – provided you use it correctly. First, let’s look at what exactly the Bradford Factor is before exploring its practical use.

How the Bradford Factor is worked out

So why is it called the Bradford Factor? Unconfirmed rumours say that the tool was created by the Bradford University School of Management in the 1980s as part of research on absenteeism and its effects on an organisation’s performance.

The Bradford Factor or B is calculated by using the following two factors:

S: The number or Spells of absences over a set period of time

D: The number of Days of absence over the same period of time

The Bradford Factor is B = S x S x D

For example, if Employee X took 2 days off in January, 1 day off in February and 2 days off in March, you would compute their score over the three months as follows:

B = 3 (instances of absence) x 3 x (2+1+2)

B = 45

If Employee Y took 7 days off in January in the same period i.e. January-March, their score would be:

B = 1 (instance of absence) x 1 x 7

B = 7

Their Bradford Factor would be lower despite having taken more days off than Employee X.

Bradford Factor trigger points of ratings scale

A lower Bradford Factor is said to be preferable and indicates that the employee’s absence is not greatly affecting their performance at work.

Every organisation uses their own ‘trigger points’, or rating scale to determine what an acceptable score is. An example of how this is measured and trigger points are set is:

0-50     no action required
51-200   informal verbal warning
201-400  formal written warning
401-600  final written warning
601 and above dismissal

Is the Bradford Factor a useful tool?

The Bradford Factor can certainly be useful – if it’s used in conjunction with manager feedback and there’s an understanding of an employee’s reasons for having a high score.

Used out of context, it will not provide HR departments with a full understanding of whether an employee’s absences can be excused or not.

It is vital to remember that your best asset are your people and while this can be a guide, proactive engagement with your staff should also be used to maximise the unique role everyone can play in your business or organisation.

Guide to manage people

Blog cover photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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