Human Resource PC Desktop

The ‘Bradford Factor’ explained… 

With workplace health a ‘significant public health issue’, costing the UK economy an estimated £13.4billion a year according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, it’s important for HR to manage absence levels and individuals that have many absences from work without any clear indication as to the cause.

Especially considering that research last year from FreeOfficeFinder found that almost a third (31%) of employees admitted to pulling a sickie and under half (42%) said that they had lied about a sick day more than once.

But, can HR really question the legitimacy of absences, even if they do have a hunch? According to Sandra Walker, a Consultant at Frontier Software, data can be a useful management tool to aid conversations on this sensitive topic. She says that the Bradford Factor is one way to illustrate how disruptive short, frequent, unplanned absence can be and help to bring patterns that may require further investigation to the fore, such as Friday/Monday absence. 

“Calculating Bradford scores will help you to highlight areas of concern and are often one of the first steps in a disciplinary procedure relating to attendance,” she says. For example, if a number of employees have taken the same number of days off sick during a year, but the pattern of absence has impacted the organisation differently, Bradford scores can highlight this. Walker says that a high Bradford Factor score - which is often an indicator of poor attendance - can lead to useful discussions. She explains: “the Bradford Factor enables managers to discuss individual scores with employees and this can have a motivational effect; either for keeping their score as low as possible or being aware that the odd ‘sickie’ really does count.” She adds that if you have a formal disciplinary process, the scores can be used as triggers for action.

But, a potential issue with using this equation in isolation is that action to mitigate absences can come across as punitive – and this could lead to increased levels of presenteeism. Instead, HR should use the results from the Bradford Factor to discuss with employees why they have a high rate of absences; there could be an underlying issue such as stress, burnout or a long-term illness. So, whilst data is an important tool for HR, consideration should also go into action taken on the back of employee absence.