Why we don’t promote the Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor is a neat mathematical formula for calculating absence levels and triggering management action. It is focused on targeting frequent short-term absence, based on the principle that this type of absence is more disruptive to the workplace. The Bradford Factor formula is:

Number of spells x Number of spells x Days lost

The reference period is commonly rolling 12 months. The number of separate occasions is squared to emphasise recurring absenteeism. This means that those with more absence spells will have a higher Bradford score than employees with the same total number of absence days accumulated during fewer separate occasions.


Bradford Factor is popular especially among workplaces where short term absence is the prevalent issue. However, at Honeydew we don’t promote its use even though our software, Engage, tracks these scores along with many other trigger criteria.

Focus on short-term absence alone

The main reason why we’re not fans of the Bradford Factor is that it focuses too much on short-term absence. We believe that an absence policy should put equal emphasis on managing both short and long-term absence. Short-term absence may be disruptive to the day-to-day operations but long-term absence quickly outweighs its impact in terms of cost.

Complex calculation

Once spelled out, the Bradford score is easy enough to understand. However, it is often shorted to (B = S2 x D) and many employees and managers struggle with the equation. It’s important that an absence policy and triggers therein are easy for employees to read and understand.

Bradford requires 2 sets of accurate data

Correctly keeping track of the Bradford scores relies on accurate absence records (which is often a challenge in itself) read together with accurate rosters. In work environments where employees mainly work Monday-Friday 9-5, keeping track of the lost days part in the calculation is fairly simple. For companies, where a large proportion of employees work shifts or work part time, this becomes a harder task. It is harder still if the shift patterns change from one week to the next.

Opt for simpler triggers with broader reach

For these three reasons, we recommend a simpler yet more effective absence trigger set:

  1. X number of spells in 12 months
  2. Continuous absence of X days
  3. X number of absence days in 12 months

This triple set catches all types of absence and combined with more qualitative triggers for early intervention, should form the base of an effective policy. The first trigger captures frequent short-term absence. It can be combined with a second trigger with a shorter reference period (e.g. 3 months) if short-term absence is of particular concern.

The second focuses management attention on long term absence, which should not be overlooked. Often, we see this set to 28 days or 4 weeks and we’d argue that this is too long. The impact of early intervention is unquestioned and where possible, the employer should try to support an employee back to work as soon as possible.

Our third trigger setting captures those who fall between frequent absentees and the long-term category. This trigger should be set at the level of the company’s target absence level. Anyone whose personal absence level is above the company target would then sit down with their managers to think of ways to reduce this.


Use Engage to track your policy triggers

Engage Absence Management portal can track all these and many other triggers. You can build your own conditions based on length, frequency, reason, accumulated days, recurrence, Bradford Factor or any combination of the above. Check out Engage to find out more.