The Bradford Factor & How to Calculate it

This page is designed to help HR Managers understand and use the Bradford Factor features within our HR software, Activ Absence.

If you are looking to get advice about the Bradford Factor in your particular situation, or have a grievance related to your company’s Bradford Factor policy, we recommend you check out this advice page instead!

The Bradford factor calculator is built into Activ Absence.  We put together this page to explain a little more about how the bradford factor works and how to calculate it manually.


The Bradford Factor calculator combines absence frequency and duration to give an individual Bradford Factor score.  This Bradford Factor score is used to measure the impact an employee’s absence is having on the organisation, and is presented to your employees on their home page dashboard, to the managers as part of the return to work process and in the reports to monitor the overall impact that absence is having.

The Bradford Factor score is a simple way of illustrating to employees that frequent short-term absences are more disruptive to an organisation than occasional long-term absences: the higher the ‘score’, the worse the disruption.

How is the Bradford Factor Calculated?

You can use our handy Bradford Factor Calculator on the right.

However, if you prefer to calculate the Bradford Factor Score manually, here is the formula:

  • S x S x D=Bradford Factor
  • S is the number of spells of absence of an individual over a given period; and
  • D is the total number of days of absence of the individual over the same period

Its easier to illustrate through some examples:

Four employees (a, b, c and d) have the same absence duration of 10 days. However, their pattern of absence is very different – as is their Bradford Factor.  The Bradford Factor calculator is designed to give more weight to frequent short-term absence.

(a) One absence of 10 days

Bradford Factor = 1 x 1 x 10 = 10 points

(b) Three absences of one day, three days and then six days

Bradford Factor = 3 x 3 x 10 = 90 points

(c) Five absences of two days each

Bradford Factor = 5 x 5 x 10 = 250 points

(d) Ten absences of one day each

Bradford Factor = 10 x 10 x 10 = 1,000 points

This enables you to show employees how short term absence affects your business.

A Bradford factor score is only a tool and as with any other tool, usage will vary from one organisation to the next.

You can however build in trigger points based on your organisation’s Bradford Factor policies, so that when a specific score is reached, an email alert is sent to the relevant people (reducing the need for ongoing monitoring).

However it should be noted that absences due to a disability (such as epilepsy or asthma) may need to be excluded from Bradford Factor Calculations, you should seek guidance from an employment consultant on this in each specific instance.

Bradford Factor Calculator

Do we have to use the Bradford Factor?

Some organisations use Bradford Factor scoring to discipline their staff, others don’t.  The information is visible to your employees either way and we usually find it has a positive effect on staff who take ‘sickies’ even if the organisation don’t use it as part of their disciplinary process.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to use it.  The number of Bradford points that trigger an absence review varies widely among employers.

One example of how it can be used is taken from a public sector employer.  They monitor their staff’s Bradford Factor scores and have set the following ‘trigger points’:

  • 51 points – verbal warning.
  • 201 points – written warning
  • 401 points – final warning
  • 601 points – dismissal

Activ Absence has configurable trigger points which can be set up to monitor and alert the HR team and/or line managers when Bradford Factor scoring thresholds have been met.

If you decide not to use the Bradford Factor it can be hidden from the employees and managers or disabled completely.

Bradford Factor Policy Benefits

Used effectively, the Bradford Factor can reduce absenteeism by serving as a deterrent and a method for tackling persistent absenteeism: Studies have shown that by educating staff about the Bradford Factor, and then showing them their score on a regular basis, absenteeism can be reduced by over 20%.

This is largely down to staff understanding that taking the ‘odd’ day off here and there will quickly multiply their Bradford Factor score – and as unplanned short term absences are hardest for an organisation to cover, this can have a positive financial impact on the business.

In summary, the Bradford Factor illustrates clearly the impact of short term absence on a business.  Once an employee understands this, they often respond in a positive way.


Bradford Factor Calculator dashboard from Activ Absence

Bradford Factor Problems

The Bradford Factor and Disability

The first issue is that the scoring mechanism does not take into account certain disabilities.  The British Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and 2005 (DDA), (replaced by the Equality Act 2010) creates a duty on employers to tailor their actions to the individual circumstances of disabled employees.  Disabilities may not be ‘visible’.

Disabilities like epilepsy or asthma are more likely to result in short term rather than long term absence.  Employers cannot discriminate against disability, therefore these protected characteristics may need to be taken into account, and may need to be recorded separately and excluded from Bradford Factor scoring.

In Activ Absence, this is easy to do by creating a separate absence type for disability related absence.  This helps you and your employee keep track of absences specifically related to that condition.  This means that your employee has a record they are able to share with their consultant if they choose – vital for staff keen to monitor seizure and asthma patterns.

Bradford Factor Calculator and short term sickness

Special Cases

The scoring mechanism does not take account of the impact of cancer or a serious but recoverable illness.

Cancer sufferers may need months off work and could easily rack up over 200 points from a single long absence, but the illness is often recoverable and staff will seek to return as soon as they are physically able.

Most employers would not want to give a written warning or other disciplinary remedies in these circumstances.  In those instances gentle, sensitive handling and implementing a return to work plan is usually more appropriate.

Again, Activ Absence can differentiate these ‘special’ absences whilst enforcing a visibly fair absence policy by creating a specific absence type, excluding it from the Bradford Factor calculator.

Who decides what is a ‘special case’?

As with any complex HR policy, when and where the Bradford Factor is appropriate is a matter for expert guidance and we ALWAYS advise seeking professional advice on each individual case from an HR Consultant or a legal specialist.  (If you don’t have your own, here is a link to the experts we recommend.)

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