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We’ve all heard of people “pulling a sickie” from work, but how can you tell when this is the case or when the reason for the sick day is genuine? 

In 1980 The Bradford University School of Management noticed that frequent short-term absences can be more disruptive to a business than longer term, less frequent absences. So, they went about developing a system designed to, over a period of time, flag up a pattern of absence that may indicate a problem. 

It works like this; take five employees, who’ve all taken the same amount of sick days over a year, we’ll say 12, but their absences show a different pattern. 12 days in one chunk vs 12 separate days will impact their work and workplace in quite different ways. The Bradford Factor is simply a mathematical formula that gives each employee a “score” based on their own pattern. This way any underlying causes can be addressed, and any disruption to a business more easily managed. 

How do you calculate someone’s Bradford Factor Score? 

Some HR software (including ours) automatically incorporates the Bradford factor into its sickness reporting system so there’s no maths or faffing required to calculate it. (The video below show’s you where to locate it in our system).  


For the maths lovers, the equation looks like this >> 

S x S x D = Bradford score 

S is the total number of instances of sickness of an individual over a set period. 

D is the total number of days of absence of that individual over the same set period. 

The ‘set period’ is typically set as a rolling 52-week period. 


For example, here’s how 10 days absence could be shown and how the Bradford factor would differ in each circumstance: 

1 instance of absence with a duration of ten days (1 × 1 × 10) = 10 points 

3 instances of absence; one of one, one of three and one of six days (3 × 3 × 10) = 90 points 

5 instances of absence; each of two days (5 × 5 × 10) = 250 points 

10 instances of absence; each of one day (10 × 10 × 10) = 1000 points 

1 instance of absence; with a duration of one year (1 × 1 × 240) = 240 points 


It’s a great way to flag up possible problems because maths pays no attention to “who”, so discrimination can’t happen because a manager doesn’t like a particular employee.  


Maths also pays no attention to “why”, and the why, is key to fair treatment. 

The Bradford factor only provides black and white statistics with no insight whatsoever as to the underlying causes; making it a handy tool for analysis, but not a good basis for any formal procedures linked to absence. The Equality Act states that employers must tailor their actions to an individuals’ circumstances. For example, pregnancy, or disabilities such as asthma or epilepsy may create short-term and more frequent absences, so they must be taken in to account when looking at Bradford scores. 

Spotting that fake 

How many times have you lost a phone or wallet and some kind soul has found it and brought it back to you? On balance, most people are probably pretty honest most of the time. So, the chances of a sick day being a total ruse are likely to be low. Logically then, most would indicate a different underlying problem. Something that a manager and a conversation could probably uncover, and then attempt to remedy.  

(Here are a few links to further reading on how to handle long-term or underlying health issues). 

Dealing with mental health in the workplace >>

How to handle long-term sickness absence >>

On the other hand, if several staff are clocking up a high Bradford score, then perhaps there’s a problem with a senior staff member making work-life hellish, or perhaps the work culture and environment could use some TLC.  

More on building a positive work culture here >> 

To have a look at our HR software and discover how it could help your business click here. If you have any questions please call us on 0333 4440165.  

Source of equation – Wikipedia