We all need a rest from work every now and then. 

Whether that’s because we’re ill and need to recover, need a mental health day, or maybe just have to be home for a delivery, there are plenty of reasons to be absent from work. 

But for businesses, the cost of absenteeism is high. 

While there are always legitimate reasons to miss work, high rates of absenteeism may be the result of employee burnout, lack of motivation, or just really nice weather outside. But if your people are missing work regularly, your organization could be in trouble.

That’s where the concept of the Bradford Factor comes into play. 

Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about the Bradford Factor, including what you can do to calculate, address, and reduce your score. 

What is the Bradford Factor?

The Bradford Factor, otherwise known as the Bradford score or the Bradford scale, is a specific type of absenteeism measurement. 

Named after Bradford University where it originated in the 1980s, the Bradford Factor is based on the theory that shorter, more frequent absences are more detrimental to an organization than longer, less frequent ones. 

It measures absenteeism, either per team member or your team as a whole, by duration and frequency and is used to quantify time off in a useful way for your business.

<<Download the guide to motivating your people and boosting engagement.>>

How do you calculate Bradford scores?

The formula for calculating a Bradford score is relatively straightforward. It can be written as follows:

B = S2 x D


B = the Bradford Factor

S = Spells, or the absences over a set period of time (typically annually, or every 52 weeks)

D = the number of days people are absent over the same period

Bradford Factor score calculation example

Here is an example of the Bradford Factor calculation in action:


Let’s say that two of your team members, Sam and Robin, come down with a bug. 

Sam takes just over a week to recover and is absent for seven consecutive working days. Robin, however, takes less time to recover but is subsequently off on three separate occasions, which add up to seven days. 

Using the Bradford formula, we can figure out the score for each team member:

Sam: 12 x 7 = 7

Robin: 32 x 7 = 63

So as you can see, while they both took the same number of days off, Robin’s score was much higher—meaning their absences were more disruptive to the business.

What is a good Bradford score?

A good Bradford score is a low one. 

When your score is lower, it suggests that your people have fewer short-term absences, which can be more disruptive to your business. 

A good Bradford score shows that your team is consistent in their attendance, which helps boost your team dynamics as well as your productivity. 

What is a high Bradford score?

When an individual has a high Bradford score, it can have a more significant negative impact on your business. Any score above 100 is cause for concern. If the numbers start to go above 200, it’s likely that more serious action may be required. 

Here’s an idea of what constitutes a good or high Bradford score and what each point means:

Score Meaning
Under 50 Typical score for an average person
50-100 The threshold for concern or monitoring
101-200 Concern, closer monitoring, and potential verbal warning
200+ Further action required

What’s behind a person’s high Bradford Factor score?

While the Bradford Factor is traditionally a measure of absenteeism, the problem a high score indicates might go beyond playing hooky.

If you see that a team member routinely takes short absences, this could be a warning sign not about their performance but their health and/or wellbeing. Ask them how they’re doing instead of jumping into a conversation about performance. How’s their family? How’s their health—both mental and physical?

High Bradford Factor scores are a cause for concern but can mean more than you think.

How to address and reduce your Bradford Factor score 

You can’t reduce your Bradford Factor score without tackling it head-on. To do so, we suggest creating a set of thresholds for your people and a loose action plan to go with it.

We say “loose action plan” because not all absences are the same. While someone who’s regularly absent without cause is a problem for the organization, a team member with a chronic illness is something you can consider making accommodations for.

Bradford Factor trigger points

When it comes to figuring out at which points you should take action, there’s no hard and fast rule. However, you can use this standard scale as a baseline for annual absences:

Points Action
101 points Verbal warning
201 points Written warning
401 points Final warning
601 points Dismissal

By making this scale public and transparent, your people will understand the repercussions  of their absenteeism on the business. At the very least, this scale can encourage people to talk with their manager about what’s happening with them, shed some light on the reasons behind their absences, and (hopefully) motivate them to re-engage with their work.

<<Download the guide to motivating your people and boosting engagement.>>

Addressing absenteeism

Absenteeism is more than a problem: It’s a warning sign about your organization, your people, your managers, and your teammates.

To tackle absenteeism, you have to understand why your people don’t want to be at work. When your culture is strong, your people are loyal—but when engagement is down, it takes productivity down with it.

The Bradford Factor and HR tech

In the digital age of business, HR tech has become integral to managing and understanding your team’s behavior. 

Using HR tech to track employee time and attendance, including absenteeism rates, can help simplify employee attendance management and monitoring while also providing data-driven insights. And an integrated leave management system can help to ensure transparent and easy management of time-off requests. 

HR tech can help foster clear communication with your team and enrich the process of utilizing Bradford Factor calculations by providing a wealth of data-based knowledge.

Tali Sachs

From Tali Sachs

Tali is a content marketing manager at HiBob. She's been writing stories since before she knew what to do with a pen and paper. When she's not writing, she's reading sci-fi, snuggling with her cats, or singing at an open mic.