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The Bradford Factor
Posted on: June 3rd, 2011 by Tony 8 Comments

The Bradford Index Factor (a.k.a. the Bradford Formula, the Bradford Index, the Bradford Measure, the Bradford Factor or even Bradford Points) is a simple calculation sometimes used in Human Resources as one measure of employee absenteeism.

The formula is:

B = A x A x D

B (Bradford Factor) is the result
A (Absences) is the number of absences
D (Duration) is the total duration of absences

Try our calculator to see how this works:

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Bradford Factor Calculator


Whatever you call it, the Bradford calculation is believed to originate from the Bradford University of Management and is based loosely on the idea that short absences are more disruptive than longer absences. As far as we can find out, it is not based on the idea that frequent absences are a sign of fraudulent or unwarranted absenteeism.

The Bradford Factor is not universally accepted; especially if used to discipline employees since it takes no account of individual circumstances. However, as one indicative measure of overall absenteeism it appears to have support.

Our research indicates that some have claimed that it reduced absenteeism for them (for example, the Prison Service claimed that it had cut absenteeism by 25% after adopting it) but some believe that it is a blunt instrument that if used incorrectly then, in the words of one commentator, is “an employment tribunal waiting to happen”.

What do you think?

Some useful links on absenteeism:

Personnel Today
Cherington HR

8 Responses

  1. Mike Martin says:

    I think it is generally a waste of time to use the Bradford Factor; more important to understand what is happening on the ground than some blunt tool.

  2. Les Potton says:

    The Bradford Factor is a useful tool to look at the prevelence of short term absence in an organisation.

    The key thing to remember is that its one of a number of tools and not a total absence management solution.

    Someone’s Bradford Factor score should form part of the evidence used in a general conversation about their attendance.

    It may be that the score is used to convince someone they need to go to their GP as they should be concerned about the 30 stomach bugs they have picked up in the last year.

    An extreme example, but you should always come from a position of believing the story unless you have evidence saying otherwise.

    The Bradford score should be used to provoke discussion not just be used as a stick to immediately beat someone with.

    However, as with a lot of sharp tools, its dangerous in the wrong uneducated hands.

    You must not include any absence related to a disability otherwise you risk discrimination.

    Also beware of creating a culture of fear around being sick. I have seen situations where employers using the Bradford Factor have allowed staff to negotiate taking holiday or unpaid leave when they have been off ill, just to keep the score down. The negotiations were often started by the employee after realising their high score !!

    The moral of the story is; the Bradford Factor is a useful tool, but make sure you read the instructions ! :)

    • Tony says:

      I think you are right about the danger of creating fear.

      I believe that the carrot generally works more effectively than the stick in most cases; in any case, it tends to lead to a healthier climate where people don’t absent frequently themselves anyway except in case of genuine sickness.

    • KevB says:

      I work for a company that does not allow you to take sick days off as leave, unless they like you. If your face doesnt fit, they beat you to death with Bradford

  3. Michelle Bailey says:

    I’ve never used the Bradford factor but like similar tools it should only be used as a ‘call to action’; you’d therefore have to set a benchmark ‘factor’ identifying what is unsatisfactory for it to be of any use.
    I’ve generally used the ‘standard’ that anyone with 3 + occasions of absence in the last 12 months should have a ‘counselling’ meeting to find out more (and define what is acceptable).

  4. Iain Young says:

    People who totally rule out the Bradford Factor are in my view as bad as those that blindly follow it.

    My experience over many years has confirmed that it is a tool that should be used with other forms of effective absence management. It must be used together with local management knowledge IE is the person taking time off because that are having urgent medical treatment? etc. At the same time it allows HR/Management to distinguish between the mickey takers and someone who has been off for 2 or 3 weeks with real flu.

    As a tool it allows those that are taking regular time off to be identified but to be effective it must be used with other tools such as return to work interviews (RTI). RTI’s must be carried out for every event and for every person, even those you know have been genuinely ill together with occupational health support. RTI’s are as much about ensuring people are fit to return to full time work and you care about their welfare as it is making those taking a sly day off know what they are doing and finally you are providing effective management.

  5. Kelly says:

    I have a team member who has had 11 occurances and a total of 29 days off sick in the last 52 weeks, this makes their Bradford score 3509!
    I have approached my manager today (as said employee has called in sick today with a sore throat) and requested a meeting with HR about how best to deal with this, they seem reluctant to take any action.
    She is a very sickly person, constantly has colds/coughs/sore throats so where this may all be geniune illness, she is also a heavy smoker, overweight and has a terrible lifestyle… surely as a company we should not be paying for her to take all this sick time???

  6. You’ve got great insights about HR Service, keep up the good work!

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