What is the Bradford Factor and How Can HR Software Help?

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Whatever the reason, short, unplanned absences from work are a part of life, but they can be disruptive to workforce productivity and cause logistical management issues.

Managing employee absence is something which HR teams, employers and managers often struggle to handle. Life happens and unplanned eventualities often disrupt our routines, but there’s a distinction that must be made between an employee taking occasional unplanned absences and persistent absenteeism. Attendance monitoring is a crucial process for HR teams to discern patterns in employee absences and maintain workforce productivity. 

There are many ways to monitor employee attendance. Organisations tend to use attendance systems which track sick leave against attendance to calculate an overall percentage. However, using more advanced formulas to calculate attendance can provide insights into the impact of employee absence on a workforce, one such formula is called the Bradford Factor.

What is the Bradford Factor?

The Bradford factor is a HR metric which is based on the theory that short absences from the workplace are worse for productivity than prolonged absences. The Bradford Factor argues that in the instance of an employee needing to take a longer absence from work, managers can effectively redistribute workloads, opposed to an employee taking multiple, short absences which not allow the time for the workload to be effectively redistributed.

The Bradford Factor is designed to be an objective measurement of an employee’s attendance. Employers can centrally assess employee absences, notice any patterns in absences or individual employees that are persistently absent from work. 

It can be utilised against certain benchmarks, or ‘trigger points’. Once Bradford scores reach a certain point, they can be used to trigger warnings to monitor an employee’s performance, trigger disciplinary conversations with line mangers, or even contribute to dismissals. 

It should not be used to account for long term sickness absences, especially in the case of prior health conditions as this will place these staff members at a disadvantage to their colleagues. 


Calculating a Bradford Factor Score

An employee’s Bradford Factor score is calculated using a formula to evaluate the instances of absence (number of occurrences) against the total number of days absent over the course of a year. Almost counterintuitively, a low score is a ‘good Bradford Factor score’, where a high Bradford Factor score shows an employee has had many instances of absence. 

Bradford Factor = S² (instances of absence) x D (total number of days absent)

For example:

Employee A had 10 absent days over the course of a year, but had one instance of absence.

Bradford Factor = (1 x 1) x 10

Bradford Factor Score = 10


Employee B took 10 days of absence, but over two instances (ie: 2 x 5 days). 

Bradford Factor = (2 x 2) x 10

Bradford Factor Score = 40


The total number of days absent between the two employees is the same, but the Bradford score for Employee B was 400% higher than that of Employee A. 

Find a free online tool for Bradford Factor calculations here.


Benefits of Measuring The Bradford Factor

Every Employee is Assessed Equally

As an objective biometric, the Bradford Factor simply shows the facts of attendance and absence in staff teams. Using the Bradford Factor in attendance management systems ensures that all employee scores are assessed equally. Using an objective metric prevents unconscious bias in attendance evaluations as facts are stated clearly and neutrally. 

Provides Clear Scores to Avoid Confusion

Keeping track of employee attendance and absence rates is a tough task for line managers, especially in large teams. The Bradford Factor offers the solution of clear statistics in attendance management systems for management to clearly see how many of their employees are present over a period of time. 

Helps to Identify Absenteeism

Bradford Factor trigger points enable line managers to identify instances of absenteeism in the workforce. Using attendance data to discover trends in employee behaviours and absences can help to discern whether an employee is taking unnecessary or excessive amounts of unplanned leave. 

Manages Business Costs

Outlining the Bradford Factor in your organisation’s absence policy allows HR and employers to manage bottom line costs for a business. Having clear scores and trigger points which all employees are measured against enables an organisation to standardise absence levels and minimise interruptions in productivity. 


Disadvantages of the Bradford Factor

It’s a Statistic

While an advantage of the Bradford Factor is its objectivity, this can also be a disadvantage. At the end of the day, we’re all human! As with any biometric, the Bradford Factor takes the ‘human’ factor out of the attendance management equation.

Attendance may be more achievable for some employees than others, so HR teams must be cautious to ensure that their weighting of the Bradford Factor does not discriminate against employees with disabilities or long-term health conditions. Reasonable adjustments should be made to an employee’s Bradford Score to account for an individual’s personal circumstances in attendance systems. 

Context is Key

Only using Bradford Scores to discern who’s taking too much leave and who isn’t creates a working environment where context and situational factors are dismissed. Understanding why your employees are taking unplanned leave is just as important as attendance (if not more so!)

Managing poor attendance sensitively is tricky. An employee may not feel comfortable to divulge the reasoning for their sick leave, so it’s up to HR teams to create an open environment to hear employee’s circumstances. Absences are often a sensitive topics for employees as the reasoning for taking unplanned leave may be linked to illness, a medical condition, a disability or even socio-economic factors.  

Increase in Presenteeism

While an advantage of the Bradford Factor is identifying absenteeism, the reverse is also true. Putting too much emphasis on Bradford Scores in an organisation’s absence policy may lead to an increase in Presenteeism (where an unwell employee comes into work and cannot perform to optimum productivity levels).

If the Bradford Factor is the only metric HR teams and managers use, employees could worry about the consequences of taking sickness leave, meaning they come to work unwell and cause further reductions to productivity. This could also impact workforce morale and cause further staff absences (which would only increase their Bradford Score!).


How to Manage and Track Bradford Scores in the Workforce

It’s clear that measuring Bradford in the workplace is an imperfect system at best. The problem with using a biometric to measure attendance is that staff teams are (usually) humans, and it’s important to not treat them like statistics. That’s not to say the using Bradford Scores as an element of a holistic attendance system doesn’t have its uses.

The clean-cut people data which Bradford provides can be used an indicator for excessive absences and absenteeism and highlight consistently attending employees. Here are our top tips on attendance management and monitoring Bradford Factor scores. 

Input an Effective Attendance Management System

Tracking Bradford Factor Scores across a staff team is made far easier when an effective attendance system is already in place. Easily keep track of attendance, short-term absences and sickness absence using attendance software. XCD’s attendance management and time tracking capabilities keep all parties updated regarding sick days and attendance. 

Use Self-Service Timesheets

Make the process of attendance management easier by enabling your team to input their own hours. 

XCD’s Cloud-based attendance management software enables managers and employees to keep track of their own attendance and absence patterns, using self-service timesheets to input hours for management approval. Straight from a convenient mobile app, your employees can be in control of their absence management and cut HR admin. 

Automate Sick Pay Calculations

Automated sick pay calculations make it easier to ensure your company are correctly managing sickness pay by reducing human error.

As an all-in-one HR and payroll software solution, XCD enables HR teams to track an employee’s attendance and absence and calculate sick pay seamlessly. XCD’s attendance software with an in-built time management solution enables automated timesheets inclusive of sick leave to be sent straight to payroll

Offer return-to-work Interviews 

Enable your Human Resources team work with your employee to understand the issues affecting their ability to come into work.

Offering return-to-work review meetings show your staff that your organisation cares about their wellbeing and wants to provide support. A return-to-work interview is an opportunity to discuss with your employees the reason for taking unplanned leave and how to mitigate future occurrences. More often than not, employers and management can find solutions to an employee’s circumstances.

Using XCD’s performance management solution, HR can record staff feedback and ensure the right plans are in place to support staff, especially those with longer-term health conditions which may impact their attendance in the future. It can also help drive employee empowerment, facilitating a culture of communication and recognition in the workplace.


XCD’s combined attendance management system and payroll solution is the tool your organisation need to improve your workforce’s Bradford Factor Scores

Featuring an all-in-one attendance management system, XCD’s platform enables you to have effective management over short-term absences and attendance tracking. Using our attendance software, you can keep track of your team’s scores and stats easily through automated timesheets and send the necessary information to payroll in just a few clicks! 

We’ve discussed how using the Bradford Factor alone isn’t enough for comprehensive attendance management, so discover the importance of other attendance analytics in our recent article on absence rates and trends in an organisation.

Empower your business processes and reduce bottom line costs by using XCD’s all-in-one software to inform employee analytics and simplify attendance tracking. Book a demo to discover how your organisation could benefit from an effective attendance management system.