Businesses are always looking for ways to minimise the impact of unplanned absences and Bradford Factor Triggers is one method of doing this. However, as helpful as Bradford Factor Triggers can be, they still court controversy and have their fair share of detractors.  

This post will explain how Bradford Factor Triggers work, as well as the pros and cons of using them. 

What is Bradford Factor Triggers?

Bradford Factor Triggers are a points-based formula which measures the impact of an employee’s unplanned absences on a business. The higher the employee’s score, the more impact their absences have on the business. The ‘triggers’ refer to different disciplinary measures that could be taken by an employer at different point thresholds. 

Bradford Factor Triggers operate on the idea that different absences have different costs to an organisation. For example, if you know one of your employees is going to be off work for a week, you can plan for it. In contrast, if someone take a day off – but calls in sick ten minutes before they’re due into work – that’s harder to work around. Then, if they do this 4 times during the course of a year, this will be more disruptive than the employee who took off an entire week. 

How do you calculate an employee’s Bradford Factor score?

You can calculate an employee’s Bradford Factor score (B) with the formula:  S2 x D = B

  • S = the number of the employee’s total separate absences. This means that a single day off counts as 1, but a full week’s absence also counts as 1 (as it’s a single absence that lasted for multiple days). 
  • D = the total number of days off.

So, for example: 

Employee A has been off sick twice: the first absence was for 3 days and the second was for 5 days. 

So S = 2 and D = 8 (3+5) = (2 x 2) x 8 = 32.

Employee B, meanwhile, has called in sick on five occasions, but only for a day at a time.  We’d calculate their BS as 

(5×5) x 5 = 125

So, as you can see, even though employee A was absent for a more days in total, and each instance of absence was for longer, they still have a markedly lower Bradford Factor Score than employee B. So Bradford Factor Triggers are skewed against those that take frequent absences.

If you’re looking to determine a Bradford Factor score for one of your employees, you use our handy  Bradford Factor calculator. 

What are the Bradford Factor Trigger thresholds?

When it comes to Bradford Factor Trigger thresholds, i.e., the different point totals that result in escalating disciplinary action, there isn’t actually an official, agreed-upon scale. It’s at your discretion at which trigger points you take action, as well as the severity of that action. Companies that set different trigger points dependent on their individual needs, as well as the nature and characteristics of their workforce. 

Here’s an example of a Bradford Factor Trigger scale

  • 0 – 99 points: No action taken
  • 99 – 199 points: Initial action (Verbal warning)  
  • 200 – 399 points: Disciplinary action (Written warning)  
  • 400 – 600 points: Serious disciplinary action (Final written warning)  
  • 600+ points: Dismissal

Advantages of Bradford Factor Triggers

Simplicity: Bradford Factor Triggers allow your management and HR personnel to easily compare employee absence patterns and their impact, across the company. They also provide a structured set of guidelines on when to look at an employee’s absence history in more detail. 

Impartiality: Because Bradford Factor Triggers are a quantitative system, it allows for uniformity and impartiality when implementing disciplinary measures for absenteeism across an organisation. Management and HR are all obliged to follow the same procedure, so you remove the need for them to decide what to do about a particular employee.

More specifically, and more importantly, it can remove a lot of the scope for an employee to claim they were being singled out or discriminated against, in the event you have to dismiss them for excessive absence.  

Transparency: You can publish your Bradford Factor Triggers scale in your absence policy for your staff to see. Now they’re aware that there are indeed consequences for being absent and what those consequences are. 

Disadvantages of Bradford Factor Triggers

Don’t tell the whole story: The main problem with Bradford Factor Triggers is they fail to tell the whole story. For instance, what if an employee has had a series of unplanned absences during the course of a year – but was an absolute superstar for the company the rest of the time? What if they made up for the lost time by working for a few extra hours each day for the rest of the week? What if they had no unplanned absences the year before?

In each of these instances, it would be unfair – not to mention unwise – to discipline or dismiss such a person just because their Bradford Factor score deemed it so. 

They can be discriminatory:  As mentioned above, Bradford Factor Triggers are skewed against frequent absences. This means that staff who have medical conditions, injuries, disabilities, or mental health issues – not to mention family members affected by one of those things – are going to end up with a higher Bradford Factor score. 

First of all, not only is this unfair but, as with the point above, it doesn’t tell the whole story. An employee might have particular circumstances that cause them to occasionally, or even frequently, take time off on short notice, but they might compensate for this by being high-performers the rest of the time. 

They encourages presenteeism: If your employees know they accumulate points for calling in sick, they might just come into work when they’re not feeling well. Not only are they not going to be at the best, but they run the risk of making their colleagues sick too: the exact opposite of what you wanted to happen.

Combine Bradford Factor Triggers with common sense and communication 

To make best use of Bradford Factor Triggers, it’s best to combine them with common sense and by communicating with your employees.

In regards to common sense, you need to weigh up an employee’s positive contributions to the business against the negative impact of their unplanned absences. Similarly, if you know an employee has circumstances that may cause unplanned absences, it would be best to adjust their trigger points to reflect this. 

That being said, you’re only going to know about said circumstances if you communicate with your staff about their absences. In doing so, you show that your company listens to and cares about its staff – as opposed to merely keeping score to catch them out. 

ScheduleLeave allows you to keep automatically track of each of your employee’s Bradford Factor scores, as well as apply your own weighting to absences and create exceptions for particular absences. If you’d like to make use of this in your business, sign up for your free trial today.