The Bradford Factor

Employee absences are inevitable but how can you tell whether it is becoming an issue for your business? This is where the Bradford Factor comes in.

This article will help you understand what the Bradford Factor is and whether or not you should use it in your business.

What is the Bradford Factor?

The Bradford Factor (also known as the Bradford Formula) was developed in the 1980s as a HR tool to determine how much time an employee can take off before they should be disciplined.

The way it works is by assigning a numerical value to the amount of time off an employee takes and how that time off was spread out.

This is important because if an employee takes 10 days off in a row, it will affect your business differently than if they took off 10 days spread across the year.

How do I calculate the Bradford Factor?

There is a very simple formula that is used to calculate the Bradford Factor. This is:


S = the total number of separate absences by the employee

D = the total number of days that the employee has been absent

B = the Bradford Factor score

These numbers should be taken over a set time period – the most common being a financial year.

The Bradford Factor scales

Different businesses have different “thresholds for concern” that the Bradford Factor score is placed in. Typically, there will be three bands however different businesses can have the numbers set however they see fit.

An example of how a business may employ the scale is…

  • 45 – This is the first band and it should indicate to you that there is sufficient cause for concern.
  • 100 – This is when, as an employer, you should start to take disciplinary action. This can be in the form of oral/written warnings or asking them to make up lost hours and so on.
  • 900 – This is when you should consider dismissing the employee.

Is it fair?

There is a lively debate about whether the Bradford Factor should be used by employers. Some say that it is completely fair, and others say that it is unfair as it fails to address certain important employment-related issues. Let’s look at these arguments in more detail.

Is it fair? – Yes 

The most common argument in favour of using the Bradford Factor is that, because it is purely based on mathematics, it is completely fair. This is because, no matter what, each employee is treated equally.

Employers like this argument as they cannot be accused of unfair dismissal on grounds of bias or simply not liking the employee. However, it must be applied to every staff member equally.

Is it fair? – No

On the other side of the coin, others argue that, because of the emphasis on equality, their individual circumstances are not being properly accounted for.

If somebody has a genuine medical condition or they have to take time off in order to care for one of their dependants, their Bradford Factor score does not reflect their individual circumstances. Some companies who use the Bradford Factor get around this issue is by adjusting the thresholds if an employee has a pre-existing medical condition.

We can help

We’re not employment advisors but, like you, we are a business. Ultimately, the decision to let someone go because of poor attendance is yours – we can, however, help you analyse the economic impact that occurs with frequent absences. Get in touch with us on 01932 704 700 or email to speak to your usual contact partner.

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