Is the Bradford Factor Fair? Tuesday’s Discovery Workshop

person at doctors office

Unauthorised absences can have a really bad effect on your business. But how do you know when to take action against staff that are constantly calling in sick, without being unfair?


A lot of business owners and HR departments swear by a simple formula called The Bradford Factor. If you already use this (or have actively chosen not to), please add to the discussion by leaving a comment to tell us why.


What is ‘The Bradford Factor’?


The Bradford Factor is a mathematical formula that calculates a score based on absence patterns.


The higher an employee’s score, the more problematic their absence pattern – but rather than simply scoring employees based on number of days taken off, The Bradford Factor calculation adds weight to the number of instances.


For example, if you took 3 individual sick days spread over 3 weeks, you would get a higher score than somebody who took 1 block of 4 sick days.


The score can be calculated manually using the Bradford Factor formula explained in this post, or some HR systems include an automatic Bradford Factor scoring feature. Different companies have different trigger points, and once an employee hits that trigger point, this is a sign that the company will now take action (normally a progressive series of warnings for each time the trigger point is hit).


Is it Fair to Use ‘The Bradford Factor’


So, is the Bradford Factor fair? Is it a good, objective way of choosing when to take action against staff absence? Well, yes and no, in my opinion – let me explain what I mean:


– Pro: It is a mathematical trigger, meaning everybody gets the same treatment, and personal opinion is put to one side. In other words, managers cannot be accused of taking action because they dislike somebody, nor of failing to take action because they like somebody – each employee gets treated exactly the same, based on number-based assessment. For this reason, using the Bradford Factor seems pretty fair.


– Con: Everybody gets the same treatment, but not everybody is the same. In other words, what if somebody has a genuine medical condition that means they are very likely to take more time off sick than their average colleague? Is it really fair to judge individuals as though they are all the same?


Some businesses deal with this issue by manually adjusting the trigger points for employees with existing medical conditions. Do you think this is the best way to deal with it? Jump to the bottom of the page and let us know.


Legal Issues with ‘The Bradford Factor’


Some people ask “Is the Bradford Factor legal?”, and the answer in a nutshell is yes – as long as you are setting reasonable trigger points, there is nothing stopping you from taking action against repeated instances of unauthorised absence using a mathematical formula.


You should note, however, that employees are actually entitled to take time off to deal with care issues for their dependants, and as this article on outlines, time taken off for this reason should not be calculated with the employee’s Bradford Factor score.


Using ‘The Bradford Factor’ for Employees on a ‘No Work Pattern’ within People HR


The problem with using automated software for calculating Bradford Factor scores, is it isn’t always possible to account for part timers, shift workers, or other employees with no regular work pattern.


Within People, we have tweaked our Bradford Factor functionality so that you can use it for any employees on a ‘No Work Pattern’.


All you need to do is record the sickness as normal, then in the box which has the ‘Total Duration’, enter the amount of working days that the sickness was over, which will then allow you to have this as one duration.

No Work Pattern


Our HR software has in-built Bradford Factor scoring to help you track problem absence patterns. Watch the 4-minute tour to see how else People could help your business grow.