Why does the Bradford Factor need cautious handling?

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The higher the ‘frequency’ of leaves, the higher is the Bradford score of an employee.

The Bradford Factor score is used by HR professionals to measure absenteeism among employees. It originated in the 1980s and was an outcome of a research by the Bradford University School of Management on the theory that short but frequent leaves are more harmful for an organisation’s health than the longer but fewer leaves.

Bradford Factor is based on a simple formula—(B= S X S X D) where S is the frequency of leaves and D is the total number of leaves.

For instance, if two employees have taken leave for 10 days, the Bradford score could differ in both the cases. The person with higher frequency of leaves will get a higher Bradford score while the one with low frequency of leaves will get a lower score.

Human resource professionals need to keep in mind that the Bradford Factor is just a mathematical formula and no decisions should be made on the premise of the Bradford score. However, there is no logic as to why the frequency of leaves was squared in the formula.

Yes, some people do argue that it omits any kind of biased decision and puts everyone on the same pedestal, but the question is whether it is the right way to do it.


 

Consider the following case: Two employees get a viral attack and take seven days off. The first person avails the full leave and joins back work only after a week. At the same time, the second employee takes leave for the first three days and then comes to work for two days because there was an urgent requirement from the client. After two days, he again goes off for four days.

Logically, both the employees have taken seven days’ leave but the first employee’s Bradford score will be only seven, while for the second employee, who attended work despite being sick, completed his job and then availed the remaining days of leave, the Bradford score will be 28. How fair is that?


If it is true that employees often misuse sick leaves and take the odd days off, then what about the genuine cases where people do fall sick? The problem starts when these odd days mount up.

All employees are unique and so are their problems. As an organisation, employers need to get to the core of the problem and empathise with each employee.

There could be cases, where an employee is in a genuine crisis and needs some help to cope with the situation. But then, there could be habitual offenders as well. So just because the two individuals have the same Bradford score, it doesn’t mean they deserve the same kind of treatment.

Consider the following case: Two employees get a viral attack and take seven days off. The first person avails the full leave and joins back work only after a week. At the same time, the second employee takes leave for the first three days and then comes to work for two days because there was an urgent requirement from the client. After two days, he again goes off for four days.


 

Bradford Factor is based on a simple formula—(B= S X S X D) where S is the frequency of leaves and D is the total number of leaves.


Logically, both the employees have taken seven days’ leave but the first employee’s Bradford score will be only seven, while for the second employee, who attended work despite being sick, completed his job and then availed the remaining days of leave, the Bradford score will be 28. How fair is that?

If we go by the rule book, the second person should be penalised because of a higher Bradford score.

But there is another catch here. The defenders of the Bradford System will argue that a score of 28 is not high enough for the employee to be reprimanded. However, if the same is repeated twice in a year the score will be 224 (4x4x14), which will call for a written warning. And for the first person, if he takes another seven days’ leave for the second time in the year, his score will be only 56 (2x2x14).

Many employees hate the Bradford Theory, and what they resent is not the score but the interview with the HR that follows a high Bradford score, where they have to explain the reasons behind such absenteeism.

The return-to-work interview is much more appreciated than purely the bare bones of a Bradford figure. It is a method of getting more information about the kind of illness. Even HR is seen as being compassionate.

It is advisable that this tool should be avoided to evaluate individual players. Instead, it should be used to gain interesting insights into macro trends, patterns and risk levels of absenteeism.

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