Managing frequent short term absence with the Bradford Factor

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Sickness absence is a massive factor in business and it can manifest itself either with as an employee having a period of long term absence which may be directly related to a specific issue – say mental health or an employee may have frequent periods of short term absence – often not requiring a medical certificate.

Arguably, frequent short term absence is more immediately disruptive to the business because it is unplanned. Many employers use the Bradford Factor as a tool in managing absence.

What is the Bradford Factor and how do you calculate it?

Also referred to as the Bradford Index, it is a simple formula which applies a weighting to an employee’s absence and supports the principle that frequent short term absence is more disruptive  than long term absence.

How do you calculate the Bradford factor?

The Bradford factor is calculated using the formula – S2 x D = B

Where

  • S is the total number of separate occasions of absences by an individual
  • D is the total number of days of absence of that individual
  • B is the Bradford Factor score

The BF score is calculated over a reference period – which may be a rolling 12 months or a set period – year to date etc.

How does the Bradford Factor work?

Having calculated BFs, most Companies have scales or ranges within which a BF score will fall and these ranges are used to trigger a discussion and as the BF score increases, this will trigger further discussions.

Initially, a discussion will take place to advise the employee that their absence is causing concern but if absence continues to increase and naturally the BF increases, this may lead to discussions which might include warnings in accordance with the disciplinary procedure and ultimately – dismissal.

Bradford is used widely because it is an excellent measure for managing absence and it provides a mechanism to ensure that a consistent approach is followed which should avoid allegations that an employee is being unfairly treated for being singled out for their absence record.

Can you use the Bradford Factor to dismiss an employee due to their absence?

Yes – but the employer must demonstrate that they have acted fairly and reasonably. It is not sensible to use the Bradford Factor as the sole criteria for managing absence – it should be used as a guide and as a measure for providing a framework and, as an employee’s BF score reaches certain levels, this should trigger discussions.

If a Company chooses to use the Bradford formula, it should always ensure that other factors are being taken into consideration including

  • the employee’s length of service
  • previous issues with absence
  • reasons for absence
  • whether the absence is due to underlying medical conditions and
  • specifically, if the absence is connected to an underlying medical or health condition, it is likely that this may give rise to an employee having protection under the Equality Act which could lead to the ability to bring a disability discrimination claim.

Is the Bradford Factor easy to implement?

Yes, but employees should be aware that the Bradford Factor is being used and it is sensible to do a ”write up” to explain how it works, what the trigger scores and rangers are and the possible  consequences of a high BF because if you don’t, the employee will only go away and google what it is so it’s far better to be in control of explaining it.

Employee absence can also cause resentment in a team because employees who are never absent have to cover for colleagues and they often resent the fact that an employee is regularly absent and their perception is that the Company is doing nothing about it.

If a Company is not seen to be addressing persistent absenteeism amongst employees (and it will normally be a very small minority), the employees who are never off will get annoyed and disillusioned because they have to pick up the extra work.

The Bradford factor sends out a message to employees that absenteeism is being addressed.

Is the Bradford Factor legal?

Yes and Employment Tribunals are familiar with it.

However, Bradford should be used as a framework guide and if it is used in isolation without regard for other factors and circumstances, it could be unfair.

An employee can be dismissed using the Braford Factor but it is not advisable to use the BF as the sole factor in making the decision to dismiss because it doesn’t take account of specific extenuating circumstances which are unique to an employee.

Be wary of frequent short term absence issues associated with the menopause because this could be seen as sex discrimination.

Finally, everyone has a different view about what constitutes an unacceptable level of absence and this can lead in larger Companies to an inconsistent approach amongst line managers – Bradford gives a mechanism to ensure consistency.

If you want help managing employee absence issues or with the implementation of the Bradford factor, Adrian Berwick of AB HR Solutions gives practical advice and support – either call 07885 714771 or e-mail – adrian@abhrsolutions.co.uk

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