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Tracking sick leave by Bradford Factor
Tracking sick leave by Bradford Factor

Sporadic use of sick leave causes major disruption. Learn how the Bradford Factor can help you be proactive in mitigating the impact.

Matthew Calleja avatar
Written by Matthew Calleja
Updated over a week ago

The Impact of Sick Leave Frequency

Sick leave is one of those hidden costs companies face that often goes unnoticed or unchecked. Meanwhile, it has a ripple effect on a company’s operations and finances which is more profound than one might assume. Years of statistical data support and underscore this impact.

It’s imperative for employers to actively monitor staff sickness rates to enable them to identify and tackle any avoidable issues before they escalate.

At times, a rise in sick leave frequency is not a sign of absenteeism or unprofessionalism. It can instead indicate several issues, from sporadic common illnesses to chronic conditions, burnout, and stress, which may even stem from challenges within the workplace.

In light of this, cultivating a work atmosphere where ill employees can take sick leave without hesitation remains advantageous for employers. Striking this balance is as vital as it is complex.

This is where the Bradford Factor comes in.

How can the Bradford Factor help?

Also known as the Bradford Index, it is a calculation used in HR management to help employers analyse sick leave instances and spot potential absenteeism.

Its primary function is to highlight concerning trends in sick leave usage, thereby providing the necessary lead time for managers to intervene.

You can see your company's Bradford Factor chart on People Insights' Sick Leave analysis dashboard quickly and easily, thanks to the default view in the Employee by... chart.

Employee by Bradford Factor

This chart displays the employees from the chosen companies in descending order, according to their Bradford Factor, the numerical value that is shown to the right of each bar.

All names and data in this screenshot are fictional.

To alter which company’s employees and which year’s sick leave data are displayed in the chart, select the desired parameters from the corresponding dropdown menus at the top of the Sick Leave Analysis screen, as highlighted below.

The Bradford Factor formula

The Bradford Factor is calculated using the formula S² × D = B.

  • S stands for the total number of separate occasions that an employee was absent due to illness.

    • For example, an employee sick only from last Monday to Wednesday has one sick leave instance. However, an employee sick on separate days - Monday, Thursday, and the following Monday - has three instances.

  • D denotes the total number of sick leave days that an employee has accumulated during the selected year.

    • In the example above, both hypothetical employees would have accumulated 3 total days of sick.

  • B refers to the Bradford Factor, which can be considered as a kind of attendance score.

Note: the formula can also be displayed as S × S × D = B, which is mathematically identical.

The Bradford Factor is based on the idea that frequent, short-term absences cause more disruption than infrequent, long-term ones.

The formula is designed such that more frequent short-term absences contribute to a higher score. Consequently, higher scores signify a greater level of disruption, caused by the sporadic absences, and should raise more concern.

The example below illustrates how four distinct, hypothetical colleagues could accumulate varying Bradford Factor scores over a year, despite each having an equal total of days of absence.

Employee Name

How many times?


Total days?



(S² × D = B)




1 instance

15 days

1 × 1 × 15



3 instances

15 days

3 × 3 × 15



5 instances

15 days

5 × 5 × 15



15 instances

15 days

15 × 15 × 15


Bradford Factor scores, beyond indicating disruption, can also signal absenteeism or unprofessionalism. However, applying a uniform formula to all employees overlooks circumstances unique to each employee. Context matters: scores alone don’t reflect professionalism. Consider individual circumstances.

From the example above, John’s 15-day continuous absence due to a severe flu has yielded a relatively low score. Meanwhile, Michael’s frequent one-day sick leave instances are because of a known medical condition, and have caused his score to skyrocket to a critical 3375.

After communicating with Michael and determining there's no foul play, the more equitable option might be to explore supportive measures for Michael’s well-being and productivity.

Interpreting Bradford Factor scores: Trigger thresholds

At this stage you may be wondering: at what point should an employee’s Bradford Factor score become a cause for concern? The answer is largely dependent on the unique standards, circumstances, and work cultures of each company.

Bradford Factor Trigger thresholds are a scale used by HR departments to understand and interpret the implications of each score.

The scale helps pinpoint different ‘trigger points’ at various stages of the Bradford Factor, ultimately determining the most effective strategies for future actions.

Threshold scales can be found online or created anew. The trigger scale below is derived from data collected from the top five search engine results for the query ‘Bradford Factor Trigger thresholds’, gathered at the time of writing.

You are encouraged to use it, find another one that better suits your company policies, or create one for yourself. It is up to you to determine the best course of action at each threshold.

Bradford Factor

Level of Concern

0 - 99

Average employee score, no concern

100 - 150

Minimal concern

151 - 399

Increased concern

400 - 600

Significant concern


Problematic level of disruption

Each company should:

  1. align the Bradford Factor Trigger thresholds with the organisation’s policies and culture by establishing appropriate Levels of Concern linked to scores as desired;

  2. establish an efficient and considerate strategy for addressing employees on each Level of Concern;

  3. promptly communicate the company policy on sick leave to the employees.

Getting the most out of the Bradford Factor

The primary function of the Bradford Factor is shining a spotlight on situations that call for decisive action.

For instance, if an entire development team has high Bradford scores, it could signal widespread burnout or stress, suggesting a need to reallocate teams, adjust workloads, or hire additional staff.

Whatever the case, context is always key in decision-making.

Software like People Insights in the Indigo suite supports and offers the Bradford Factor due to its positive effect on efficiency, communication and absenteeism.

  • Efficiency: the formula provides a quick, objective overview of employee absenteeism, eliminating employer subjectivity and providing quantifiable evidence.

  • Communication: the practice enhances communication between managers and employees by setting clear guidelines for acceptable absence levels, promoting healthy work practices, and improving attendance record maintenance.

  • Reduced Absence: The index encourages employees to be judicious about their absences, and employers to devise effective strategies, such as implementing work-from-home policies.

While formulas and software can provide valuable insights, they cannot replace a mindful HR manager who can make informed decisions based on context. This human element is crucial in ensuring fair and empathetic management.

It's important that absenteeism policies are made clear and available to employers, HR departments, and employees. Once all parties have a clear understanding, the Bradford Factor can serve as a valuable tool in a well-rounded absence management strategy.

Some Bradford Factor Trigger thresholds found online appear dismissive of employee needs at face value, hastily recommending ‘verbal/written warnings’ or even ‘dismissal’. However, it’s crucial to remember the importance of context in these situations.

Remember, your jurisdiction may not legally recognise the Bradford Factor, so it shouldn’t be used to justify dismissal without proper process. Therefore, it’s essential to comply with your jurisdiction’s sick leave and termination laws to steer clear of any legal complications.

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