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Absence Review Techniques - The Bradford Factor

Companies measure absence in a number of ways, including and excluding various types of absence. As a result, one company may have a higher absence rate than another organisation only because it includes more non-sickness variables when measuring absence.

Below we describe some of the more straightforward absence measurement formulas including what has become known as the ‘Bradford factor’. Whether an organisation is in a position to carry out a more detailed analysis of its absence data (including estimates of the cost of absence) depends on the quality of its recording systems and, increasingly, on the sophistication of its HR software.

Measuring the overall rate
In calculating overall absence rates, many organisations use a standard formula to show the amount of time lost:

Number of days/shifts lost to absence x 100
       Total number of working days/shifts

This overall figure, however, leaves many questions unanswered. For example, is the absence rate a reflection of a few employees suffering from long-term ill-health or are a substantial number of employees being regularly absent for relatively short spells?

Measuring frequency
A simple calculation, often called the frequency rate, may provide more helpful absence information on which to base policies to reduce absence. This rate shows the average number of spells of absence per employee (expressed as a percentage) irrespective of the length of each spell:

Number of spells of absence x 100
           Number of employees

Measuring incidence
Another simple calculation can reveal the proportion of employees absent during a given period:

Number of employees having one or more spells of absence x 100
                                     Number of employees

Measuring disruption - The Bradford Factor
For many organisations, the cost and disruption of persistent, short spells of absence are greater than for occasional, longer periods of absence. To address this problem, some companies use a method often referred to as the Bradford factor.

The Bradford factor is widely believed to have its origins at Bradford University’s School of Management during the 1980s. But there appears to be no record of this and it seems likely that the formula has no formal connection with the university. However, the term has stuck and is now a popular shorthand reference for this type of approach.

This ‘Bradford’ formula measures an employee’s irregularity of attendance. It is calculated by multiplying: S x S x D = ‘Bradford’ points score ; where S is the number of spells of absence in the last 52 weeks and D is the number of days’ absence in the last 52 weeks.

So for employees with 14 days’ absence in one year, differently distributed, the score can vary enormously :

*  one absence of 14 days is 14 points (ie 1x1x14)
*  seven absences of two days each is 686 (ie 7x7x14)
*  14 absences of one day each is 2,744 points (ie 14x14x14)

The greater the points ; the more is the need for the employee to be counselled, given a verbal warning or disciplinary action to be taken.

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