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Calculating absence using the Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor is a formula that attaches more significance to an individual’s number of periods of absence than the days of absence taken in a 12–month rolling period. It is thought to have originated from the Bradford School of Management in the 1980s. It is a useful tool for applying a consistent approach to identifying absence problems, and thereby allowing you to manage them consistently, relatively quickly and effectively.

However, the Bradford Factor does not take into consideration the reason for a particular absence and can therefore sometimes expose employers inadvertently to the risk of discrimination.

The formula

To work out what an employee’s “Bradford Factor” score is, you will need to know how many days’ absence the employee has taken in the previous 12 months, and how many separate periods of absence the employee has had during that time.

The formula for calculation is:

Days x periods x periods

Example 1

5 periods of absence totalling 15 days in the last 12 months = 15 x 5 x 5 = 375 points


Days x periods x periods

Example 2

Absences of 1 day, 2 days, 1 day, 1 day and 2 days in the last 12 months =

7 days total over 5 periods = 7 x 5 x 5 = 175 points

If two or more periods of absence are due to the same episode of illness, then it is recommended that they are treated as just one period, eg an employee gets a nasty cold, takes Monday off work, returns on Tuesday but then takes off both Wednesday and Thursday, then this should be treated as one period of three days’ absence.

The employer can then choose the appropriate trigger score they would like to use when they believe the formal process for managing attendance is invoked, for example you could commence informal management of an employee’s absence problem once their Bradford Factor score exceeds 100 points (equivalent to five individual days taken across a year) and then, for example when the Bradford Factor score exceeds 300 (equivalent to seven individual days taken across a year), you could commence a more formal process.

When to take action

There is no hard and fast rule as to when to start either informal or formal action; however, it is important that whatever trigger you choose for your organisation you then apply it consistently. Just be sure that, whatever trigger(s) you identify are reasonable and once formal action is instigated, you ensure a full and thorough investigation takes place prior to any disciplinary action being commenced.

Monitoring attendance levels

The Bradford Factor calculation should not be used for monitoring improvements in an individual’s attendance levels once the formal process has begun (ie when a verbal warning or written warning has been issued). This is because the method for calculating the Bradford Factor score addresses an employee’s absence record over the previous 12 months, whereas an improvement should be measured from the point an employee is made aware of their absence problem and then assessed going forward.

When to make an exception

You should also note that there are some reasons for absence that should not be included when calculating an employee’s Bradford Factor score or assessing future absence. These include, but are not limited to:

  • pregnancy-related illness
  • time off for dependent care
  • maternity leave
  • paternity leave
  • parental leave
  • ante-natal appointments
  • jury and public service.