This month we’re introducing a series of blogs focussed on the legal sector, the first of which looks at Unplanned Absence. As one of the many sectors e-days is particularly strong within, we felt a focus on the management of absence within the legal sector would be of interest.

As a company, we supply absence management software to 3 of the top 20 law firms in the world (cc: law 360), so it’s clear to us that several factors make managing absence efficiently important for legal firms, most significantly saving time and money.

Absence, whilst important to manage for any industry, is especially prevalent within the legal sector. Whether planned or unplanned, working absence around important and potentially long-running casework is incredibly difficult to manage. This is why it’s surprising so few legal firms still don’t have automated systems in place to make managing absence simpler.


Current UK Sickness and Absence Stats

CIPD health and wellbeing report 2018: Most common causes of short & long term absence



Work-related stress is currently the second highest cause of short term absence at 8% and contributes as the third-highest cause of long term absence at 22%.

Mental health issues currently stand as the second highest cause of long term absence, but also feature as a cause of short term absence (2%), interestingly 27% of respondents stated some form of mental ill-health in their top three causes of short terms absence (up 6% since 2016)


Identifying trends in unplanned absence

Tracking absence trends is vital for organisations for several reasons. Firstly, unplanned absence costs organisations a great deal of money in lost productivity, so knowing exactly what could be causing absences and when indeed absences occur most can be vital to creating a better strategy for employee wellbeing.

Often when sickness is logged using paper and spreadsheets, it’s hard to extract data or discover trends such as popular days off during the week, or specific months of the year where sickness peaks in an organisation. It’s vitally important that organisations have access to accurate sickness data to ensure they can stem the flow of unplanned absence wherever possible.

The second, and potentially more pressing issue, is the current emphasis on mental ill-health and stress caused by or emphasised by, workplace conditions. It’s becoming apparent that the days of working from the point the cleaners leave in the morning to the point where they arrive in the evening isn’t something that is expected of employees anymore. More so than ever, the emphasis is placed on flexible working, offering employees the ability to finish off more pressing work at home so that they can balance work and family life.



But could tough working hours in the legal sector be leading to increased stress and the potential risk of mental ill-health? As stated previously, a staggering number of 95% of legal workers have reported feeling stressed at work at one point or another, which goes some way to suggesting that the need to accurately track sickness trends in the legal profession is vital.

Being on top of things and being able to identify patterns and trends in sickness means that HR or line managers can intervene if they see fit. One thing that has been made clear is that employees will not tend to bring up the subject of stress or mental ill-health themselves, due to not wanting to be seen as showing weakness.

Proactively setting alerts for when trends are identified arms HR and Line Managers with a powerful tool to address problems and provide solutions to stressed and overworked employees, something which can go some way to increase employee engagement with an organisation if they feel they are being looked out for.


Tools to measure absence trends: Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor is a simple formula that calculates a score for each employee by applying a relative weighting to his or her unplanned absence. Designed around the principle that repeat, short term absence has a greater operational impact, higher scores represent increased disruption for the organisation.

Implementing the Bradford Factor score as a tracking mechanism enables HR and line managers to keep track of employee’s absence that has the highest impact on the organisation. Some absence management systems will also allow you to set alerts for when a particular score is triggered on the Bradford Factor scale, enabling employers to schedule meetings with employees who have gone over a set number on the Bradford Factor scale, to see if there is anything an organisation can do to help that employee.


How to calculate Bradford Factor score


The formula for the Bradford Factor is E x E x D = B Where E is the number of episodes of absence and D is the total number of days absent in a rolling 52-week period. The formula applies a relative weighting to employees’ unplanned absences, to allow you to measure their absence trends on a scale, for example, 0 to 100.

Below is a representation of how a Bradford factor scale could look, with trigger markers set at 60, 80 and 100 to alert managers when an employee has gone over a certain threshold.



Whitepaper: Your expert guide to Absence Management in the Legal Sector

Click the image below for your exclusive access to our FREE guide to Absence Management within the Legal sector. Our insightful whitepaper aims to help guide your leave tracking and absence decision making processes going forward, with a range of eye-catching stress-related stats and advice on managing the careful balance between allowing holidays at the same time and ensuring a minimum staffing level is upheld.