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How to Use The Bradford Factor to Manage Employee Absence

Mairead Walsh

How is the score calculated?
The Bradford Factor Score is calculated using the following formula: S x S x D where

  • S is the number of spells of absence of an individual over a given period; and

  • D is the total number of days of absence of the individual over the same period.

So for employees with 10 days’ absence in one year, differently distributed, the score can vary enormously:

  • 1 absence of 10 days is 10 points (1 x 1 x 10)

  • 5 absences of two days each is 250 points (5 x 5 x 10)

  • 10 days of one day each is 1000 points (10 x 10 x 10)

Whereas using the traditional percentage method, all would result in the same percentage.Using this formula, Managers can see at a glance, the effects of employee absence on the organisation as a whole as well as a comparison between departments.

How is it used?
The Bradford Factor is generally used by organisations to identify employees with frequent short-term absences. Short term absences are often considered more disruptive than long term absences, due to the fact that, it’s often easier to make arrangements to cover an employee who is going to be off for long periods. Employees taking odd days off here and there are considered more disruptive to the business and a lot harder to plan for. They can have an immediate effect, and if recurrent,they are likely to arouse suspicions over the genuineness of the absences.The more frequent the absences the higher the score.

Managers therefore monitor scores so that if an employee hits a certain score/trigger point,further investigation or action can be taken.This in itself can act as a deterrent to employees who do take absence for non-genuine reasons. A number of organisations have reported that absence is reduced when Bradford scores are first introduced, which may be due to the use of this system, as a visible warning and deterrent to employees.

Things to consider if using:
Bradford scores should not form the only basis for important decisions such as disciplinary action due to persistent absenteeism. Additionalanalysis and consideration of each individual case is an essential companion to the use of The Bradford Factor.Bradford scores focus purely on short-term absence and can therefore easily distract attention from the problems of long-term absence. The safest approach to using this measure is to ensure that important decisions;are not based around Bradford scores alone. These scores act best as a trigger to prompt managers to examine further.

TheBradford Factor also concentrates on the number of instances and length of time absent, but doesn’t pick up on other trends such as days of the week, particular shifts, sporting events, etc.Therefore, the analysis is limited in terms of tracking absenteeism trends.Furthermore, the Bradford Factor calculation is worked out for each individual employee so it can be reasonably complicated to work out on a departmental/company-wide level. This problem can however be surmounted, with the use of a good time & attendance system, which can automatically calculate the Bradford Factor points score, rank employees and trigger alerts when issues arise.

There are no hard and fast rules for using the Bradford Factor; it is effectively down to each individual organisation to decide how it will use the score. Used effectively, the Bradford Factor can undoubtedly reduce absenteeism and serve as a deterrent to persistent offenders. Studies have shown that by educating employees about the Bradford Factor, and informing them of their score on a regular basis, absenteeism can be dramatically reduced. This is largely down to employees realizing that taking the odd day off here and there will quickly multiply their Bradford Factor score. The Bradford Factor places a value on the absence which an employee can clearly see. Where the absence is not absolutely necessary, this can serve to deter absenteeism.

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