Absence Management Strategy and the Bradford Factor
This article provides an introduction to the Bradford factor, explores the relative merits of the Bradford factor as an absence management tool and provides guidance on the development of an absence management strategy and the considerations therein.
What is the Bradford Factor?
In a nutshell, the Bradford factor is a tool that defines a relative scoring for employee absence.
The Bradford factor is a simple mathematical approach to providing a benchmark for employee absence over a defined period, typically a year. A zero Bradford factor indicates complete attendance (or no unplanned absence), the higher the Bradford factor, the more absence and/or repetitions of absence. Tolerance levels are typically defined as part of an absence management system, as employees transit through these levels specific management triggers occur (from informal discussion through to dismissal).
You can calculate the bradford factor using our onlne bradford factor calculator.
- Is the Bradford Factor a good way of measuring employee absence?
There are numerous weighted papers in relation to the Bradford factor, the truth is that there are strengths and weaknesses with the tool. We must however remember that the Bradford factor is just that, a tool. The Bradford factor provides a simple numeric output. It is important to remember that tools are only as good as the individuals who use them. How the numeric score is used is entirely dependant on the manager and the organisational approach / absence management strategy. So, whether used as a standalone gauge or as part of a comprehensive absence management program the Bradford factor remains a tool for people managers.
"The effectiveness of the Bradford Factor Score is entirely dependent on what data is used for the calculation and how the results are analysed and interpreted. The Bradford factor is not a standalone answer to unplanned absence management, it is merely a benchmark from which you can start to make an informed decision as to whether or not an issue exists with one of your staff."
- Are Bradford Scores the best way of calculating sickness absence rates?
The Bradford factor is not a comprehensive tool, it will not define specific actions and fails to take into consideration a number of ‘affecting factors’. It is the manager and the organisation who should really consider what information should be calculated. It is how the tool and the data provided is used that delivers a successful absence management program. When reviewing papers and case studies that discredit the Bradford factor you need to look at the context of application. Failures are typically due to poor policy, training, application and interpretation of results. The Bradford factor index should form part of an absence management program with key strategic and operational objectives. Using the Bradford calculator in isolation will have floored results.
- What the Bradford factor fails to factor:
- Repeat absences: Regular Friday / Monday. Same day every year.
- Late attendance: Continually late staff can cause as much disruption / lost time as regularly absent staff. Wider staff can become disenfranchised / disgruntled with the slovenly behaviour and adopt similar practice / loiter until the late party arrives. See the Maiden Factor Calculator for measurement.
- Medical condit;ions, disability etc
- Dependants Absence resulting from a dependant being unwell.
- Compassionate: Death, serious illness, distressing family/home events which prevent the individual being at work / in the right frame of mind to work effectively / safely.
Absence management strategy
If you have arrived at this article the chances are that you are either a student or a manager / director facing attendance issues. As a student your main concern is theory, as a manager / director you concern is operational effectiveness: how do you ensure the staff cover on your books is transformed effectively into the service / product output.
The CIPD argues that
"Effective absence management involves finding a balance between providing support to help employees with health problems stay in and return to work and taking consistent and firm action against employees who try to take advantage of organisations' occupational sick pay schemes"
and we wholeheartedly agree. The key to absence management and a solid, legal, fair but firm strategy is in achieving balance. You must have sufficient scope to ensure that you allow for those who may be late occasionally or absent due to good reason yet have the ability to deal effectively with those whom are simply abusing the system. A good balanced plan, well executed and commonly understood and embraced will provide a fairer and more effective workplace.
So, you need an absence management strategy, start with the basics:
- What are the factors affecting employee absence?
- Employment Law
- Contract agreement
- Implementation and consistency of application
Factors effecting Employee Absence
The key to a successful absence management strategy is understanding what is driving the absence. Typical factors include:
- Poor Training
- Bad Management
- Unethical management (bullying, harassment, racism etc)
- Poor conditions
- Poor rumination
- Sense of belonging / inclusion
- Lack of commitment
- Cultural behaviour
As an employer, all the aspects above bar commitment are in your direct control. You can encourage increased commitment but the reality is that some workers never commit effectively to their work. So, that is a good proportion of factors within your control. If you are seeing increasing absenteeism it is worth looking for trends, is one department worse than another? If the problem is across the board, could it be cultural or the condition of your facility. Be honest and subjective if you seriously want to effect a positive change. If the issue is cultural this can be challenging but not impossible, rewarding '0' absence is a good way to adopt a positive attendance culture.
Once up and running, you can calculate the bradford factor of your employees here.
Bradford Factor Resources
- An introduction to the Bradford Formula
- Absence Management Strategy and the Bradford Factor
- Absence Management Strategy and the Bradford Factor
- Guide to Doctors Notes for Absent Staff
- Absence Management Forms and Supporting Documents
- An introduction to Analysing Staff Information
Additional Bradford Factor Resources
For further information on The Bradford Factor (Use, Implementation and Record Keeping), please review our Bradford Factor guides and management strategy information.