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Bradford Factor Loopholes: 3 Alternative Methods to Measure Absence

18 February 2020 5 min read


Many employers look to the Bradford Factor when tracking unplanned absence and identifying potential problems. It is a fantastic way to calculate absence in your businesses. It works by giving each employee a score based on their unplanned absences.

However, the Bradford Factor isn’t the only way to measure absence within your organisation and it does carry its disadvantages and loopholes. For starters, it can be an unfair metric because employees have different medical histories and circumstances which aren’t always taken into account when using the Bradford Factor.

There is a range of alternatives to the Bradford Factor that may be suitable for your business to use when measuring unplanned absence.

Below we have identified 3 alternatives to the Bradford factor, each with its pros and cons.


1. Lost Time Rate

Lost Time Rate is a common alternative to Bradford Factor scoring. It simply measures how much time your organisation has lost to absence in comparison to the maximum possible time employees could have worked for.

It’s worked out as follows: Hours lost / Potential hours

This calculation, unlike the Bradford Factor, can easily be used on as many people as you like, over any given period.

Example Lost Time Rate
For this example, let’s say you have a team of 10 sales representatives. The maximum number of hours each team member can work per week is 42, making the potential hours worked across the team 420 (42 hours x 10 sales representatives). If one member of the team had been off for three days, then your hours lost would be 24.

Lost Time Rate calculation
24 / 420 = 0.057
0.057 x 100 = 5.7 %

What regarded as good or bad varies from industry to industry. But in 2018 the average working time lost per worker to sickness was 6.1 days or 2.8%.

Pros and cons
Lost Time Rate can be useful as a general measure of sickness absence levels for an organisation. However, as it only gives an overview of time lost, a small number of employees who have long term sickness absence or a larger number of employees who have frequent short-term absences can distort the figures overall.

2. Frequency Rate

Frequency Rate operates differently to both the Bradford Factor and Lost Time Rate. Unlike Lost Time Rate, it ignores total time lost and looks at how many individual spells of absence occur within your organisation.

To calculate Frequency rate, you perform the following calculation: Absence spells / Total employees

Example Frequency Rate
We will use the same example as before. Taking 10 sales representatives, where one person had taken three days off sick. Now assuming the three days were consecutive the absence spells figure would be 1. With 10 people in the team, the total employees’ figure would be 10.

Frequency Rate calculation
1 / 10 = 0.1
0.1 x 100 = 10%

Pros and cons
Frequency Rate tends to produce a high percentage over longer periods and can often equate to a score higher than 100%. It is not appropriate to use when comparing the full year against on particular week or month. This is because the longer the period, the more instances of absence will be taken into account and without the number of employees changing. It could be 10% for one week but 20% for two weeks, even though the individual weeks themselves had the same number of absences.

The main reason many businesses use this calculation is to measure high-frequency absences as even in short spells, they can be more difficult to plan and manage.

3. Consolidated Approach

The final approach you could take would be to use the two methods above and the Bradford Factor, all together. This will paint a better picture of how disruptive absences are within your organisation. The data will allow you to identify problematic absences and any specific patterns that may occur.

Consolidated Approach score
The Bradford Factor: 3
Lost Time Rate: 5.7%
Frequency Rate: 10%

Is measuring absence going to solve all our absence problems?

The simple answer is no. Measuring absence alone will not make much of an impact on your organisation. It’s how you follow up on your findings that will make the difference. The best way to follow up any absence is always from an empathetic perspective rather than a disciplinary outlook, offering a helping hand and not seeking to punish them.

This can be achieved by asking your employees about their absences directly through the return to work forms, informal chats and promoting a working environment where talking openly about health is encouraged. The next step is to offer help where you can, is an employee burned out? Give them a few days off. Is an employee unwell? Offer expert medical advice.

All the above will show employees that they are valued by your organisation. Increasing their morale, loyalty, and productivity.

Need a helping hand capturing and storing all this absence data?

Why not give Edays a try? Our absence management platform can report on various absence/sickness types and feed this information back to you conveniently through one screen. It can even offer expert medical advice through our integration with the NHS that can push relevant information through to employees.

If you want to both measure and act on absence, it’s the best platform around.


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Harry Customer Success Manager at edays
February 18, 2020

Harry is Head of Customer Success here at edays, helping organisations to get the very best out of their edays system. His experience in SaaS and HR brings valuable insight into how organisations can better manage their people, processes and productivity.