Absence comes in all shapes and sizes – and it can last anything from a few days to a number of months.

Our research found that, in the last year, 34% of employees took 1 to 3 sick days, 13% took between 4 and 10 sick days and 51% say they didn’t take any sick days at all.

But, however long an employee is off work for, it's important to keep tabs on their absence. By monitoring an employee's un-planned absence, you’ll be able to notice patterns and nip any potential problems in the bud before they get out of hand.

Issues with absence affect other employees. If other members of the team are having to cover the extra workload, it can lead to them feeling stressed and unhappy at work: a classic recipe for declining productivity and engagement.

So, monitoring absence clearly makes a lot of business-sense. The Bradford Factor is a useful way of doing this - and many businesses out there already make use of it.

As with all things numbers, at first The Bradford Factor can seem a little confusing. Fear not - in this article we’ll help you understand what the Bradford Factor is and equip you with everything you’ll ever need to know about it.

What is the Bradford Factor?

The Bradford Factor is a formula commonly used in HR to measure employee absence. It's a number that represents how many un-planned absences an employee has taken during the last working year.

Generally, the rule is that the number increases with each bout of absence. By monitoring your employees’ absence, The Bradford Factor helps to measure the potential impact it could have on the overall running of the business. The bigger the score, the bigger the impact.

sick report 2019

How is The Bradford Factor calculated?

At this point you’re probably wondering where on earth this number comes from. Here’s the formula behind the Bradford Factor:

E² x D = Bradford Factor

  • E = the number of instances of absence
  • D = the total number of days absent in a 52-week period

Examples of Bradford Factor calculations

As you may have noticed from the formula, an employee who takes frequent, short spells of sickness will rack up a higher Bradford Factor than an employee who is has less bouts of sickness but tends to take more days off each time. 

Let's say Lucy has had a total of 7 days off sick in the last year. Her Bradford Factor score will depend on how many blocks of absence she's taken. For example:

  • 1 bout of absence: 1 instance x 1 instance x 7 total days off
    = 7 (Bradford Factor score)
  • 2 bouts of absence: 2 instances x 2 instances x 7 total days off
    = 28 (Bradford Factor score)
  • 3 bouts of absence: 3 instances x 3 instances x 7 total days off
    = 63 (Bradford Factor Score)

The Bradford Factor and HR Software

If you use an HR software that contains absence management functions – such as Breathe – the system will calculate your employees’ Bradford Factors for you, making life ten-times easier when it comes to monitoring absences.

With Bradford Factor scores already in the system, you can run insightful reports in a flash to identify employees that are frequently absent, as their scores will typically be higher.

Whilst the Bradford Factor can be an efficient way of monitoring absence, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s just a calculation – it doesn’t take into account the reasoning behind absences and so shouldn’t be used in isolation.

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