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The Bradford Factor – how to keep your business moving

3-minute read

Two business people using digital tablet
Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith

20 January 2023

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Keeping track of absence is an essential part of business admin when it comes to managing a team. The Bradford Factor is a tool to help you understand how unplanned absences are impacting your business.

Whether you have a small team or a bigger business, your role is to look after your people and empower them to succeed. But what happens when regular time off starts to affect the rest of your team and your bottom line?

Read on for how to calculate the Bradford score, when to use it, and whether it can be useful for your small business.

What is The Bradford Factor?

The Bradford Factor (or Bradford Score) is one way you can measure unplanned absences in your business.

Unplanned absences include things like sickness, doctor’s appointments, and emergency care for family. Of course anyone can be ill and this tool shouldn’t be used to discriminate against people.

Annual leave doesn’t count towards the Bradford score as that’s a planned absence.

But how does the Bradford Factor work…?

It’s a way of calculating both the number of days someone is sick in your team and the number of periods of absence throughout the year. This gives you a numerical score to understand any patterns.

The score is a way to view the weighting of someone being off sick frequently or for long periods and the potential impact on your business over time.

The Bradford Factor calculator – a mathematical method

There’s a simple formula you can use to work out the Bradford Factor for someone in your business:

S x S x D = Bradford Factor

Number of unplanned absence periods (S)

Total number of days absence on a year (D)

BreatheHR has a useful Bradford Factor calculator to help you work out a score for your employee.

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Should you use a Bradford Score?

Let’s say someone on your team is off sick one day a month for five months. Compare this to someone else in your team who took five days off for one instance of sickness when they came down with Covid-19. It might not be immediately clear on the impact of this.

The formula uses a Bradford scale to identify patterns and when you might need to have a meeting or a conversation with the person to understand what’s happening.

That said, the emphasis should be on how you can support your staff rather than using the score as a disciplinary measure. For example, is there an underlying cause like workplace stress? Or can you give them more support when it comes to flexibility and looking after their children? An occupational health assessment can help with this.

Remember it’s a guide

No formula should be used as a hard and fast rule when it comes to people. By all means, use the Bradford Index as a guide to understand patterns but use it with caution and alongside other factors.

Every person is unique

You must be careful to take individual circumstances into account when using this formula. For example, if your employee has a disability, suffers from a long-term medical condition, or has a child then they might need more time off. Fair and reasonable adjustments must be made and you can’t use the Bradford score to discriminate.

Communication is key

Bradford factor ‘trigger points’ are used for employers to identify when an employee has got to a certain score and a conversation might be needed. This could be in the form of a warning or a meeting with the manager.

For example, a return to work meeting after the latest period of sickness can be a good idea to chat about what might be happening, and if there’s anything you can do as an employer to support your employee.

You might have a leave of absence policy for things like compassionate leave and doctor’s appointments – refer back to this to make sure you’re treating all your staff fairly and in line with the law.

This article is intended as a guide. Make sure you speak to a legal professional if you’re not sure about anything. The UK government has guides for employers on statutory leave and time off.

Our Knowledge centre has a range of resources for businesses with employees:

Do you use the Bradford Factor in your small business? Let us know in the comments.

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Photograph: Andrey Popov/
Catriona Smith

Written by

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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