The Bradford Factor, or Bradford Formula, is a theory concerning the disruptive influence in productivity levels from short-term and unplanned employee absences. It is attributed to research conducted at the University of Bradford in West Yorkshire, England, in the 1980s. The official formula is written as B = S2 x D, where B is the Bradford score, S is the number of consecutive periods of employee absence per individual over a fixed period of time, and D is the total number of days of absence during the same period.
The higher the score, the more disruptive an employee is seen as being to the company. An employee can be absent on more days and have a lower score than someone else, however, if most of those days are consecutive. This is because absences that occur in groups of consecutive days are seen as less disruptive to company productivity overall than randomly-spaced, individual days of absence.
Absenteeism calculations that utilize the Bradford Factor can be used by human resource management departments to determine causes and reduce absenteeism in general. Despite this general benefit from the approach, disabled employees often have absences beyond their control, and the calculations can be discriminatory. For this reason, a law such as the British Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1995 was revised in 2005 and protects employees from undue disciplinary action because of negative scores for which they weren't directly responsible.
A score of 250 or higher is seen as one of the main Bradford Factor triggers for severe absence. When such high scores occur, they are best evaluated in light of return-to-work interviews and production manager meetings so that the score alone is not a basis for decision making. The field where Bradford Factor calculations appears to have a clear impact on working time is in call center environments, where scheduling for peak periods is precisely planned. Short-term, unplanned absences also have the effect of looking like mini-vacations to employees still on the job, and it can create an environment that increases absenteeism overall. By contrast, long absences that result in significant loss of pay and opportunity for advancement often appear to be more justified by other employees, and are, therefore, less disruptive overall.
Using the Bradford Factor formula to monitor absentee rates, and the sharing of results with the employees, appears to reduce absenteeism on a system-wide level by an average of 20%. Whether this is entirely beneficial can be questioned, however, as the reason given for most short-term absences is that they are being used as sick leave. Motivating employees to come to work when sick may, in fact, contribute to more long-term absences, which the Bradford Factor formula doesn't penalize as strictly, and, therefore, has a blind spot for. Human resources management formulas, therefore, can be counterproductive if both sick and disabled employees are coerced into coming into work when not fully capable of performing their duties, and they must be used with common sense and caution.