The Bradford Factor

As you may have picked up from my last post, I am a Bradford City fan having spent 13 years of my life growing up in the city.  However, this post discusses the Bradford Factor a method recently introduced at my work to provide insight into staff absence.

Its calculation is very simple. Take the square of the number of times a person has been absent from work (S) and multiply it by the number of days they have been absent (D):

B = S^2 \times D

Anyone scoring above 125 over a period of 1 year should be investigated to find out why their score is so high.  Anyone with a score over 500 could face disciplinary action.

So what does that look like for an average employee.  From this article in The Times last year it describes the average private sector worker as having 6.4 days off in a year.  We don’t know how those 6 days are spread, but lets take a look at a few scenarios:

Taking 1 day off 6 times in the year:

B = 6 x 6 x 6 = 216

Taking 6 days in 1 go:

B = 1 x 1 x 6 = 6

Taking 2 days off 3 times over the year:

B = 3 x 3 x 6 = 54

Hmm.  Is that right?  If I have (slightly less than) the average number of days off in the year, but I do so in 6 episodes I will be investigated and have to explain why I have been missing from work.

At the heart of the philosophy of using the Bradford Factor is that it is frequent short absences that are the most disruptive.  That may be true in some sectors, especially where alternative cover must be found, but what about software development?

In my experience, the longer the absence the more disruptive the absence is to the project.  Missing a day on a software project is rarely an issue, but missing a week can destroy its chances of success.  If a software developer has to spend the day at home ill, they are usually so involved in the project, the challenges, the technical problems that need solving that they still spend their time thinking about the project.  This thinking time can still count to the project – after all, the job of developing software is mainly thinking not typing on a keyboard.

Conversely, the longer the absence the more the project fades from memory.  Less thinking can be done to move the project on as the current challenge that was fresh in the mind will either fade or will already have been addressed in thought.  No new challenges are going to  arise without actually trying out the thoughts with new code.

So, in conclusion, please don’t try to make a simple maths formula tell you how to treat your software developers.  They are usually highly intelligent, highly motivated and will be absolutely horrified and offended by the implied accusation that they were taking time off when they didn’t need to.


About Big_GH

Currently employed as a Software Development Consultant with over 30 years experience with computing. Started writing BASIC programs on the Commodore VIC 20, C64 and Amiga before switching to C and C++. Now spends more time helping others with their software and looking after the "bigger picture".
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5 Responses to The Bradford Factor

  1. Joshua Lock says:

    Wow, I am shocked and appalled. Knowing of this Bradford Factor nonsense would actually make me more likely to take a day off here and there… interviews!

    Disciplinary action for taking time off makes the place sound more like a prison :-/

  2. Wendy says:

    I’ve just been looking into my own Bradford Score, having taken three separate days and one period of two weeks in the last rolling year.

    I am astonished and annoyed to find that my hospital adds on both weekend days (if you’re sick on a Friday) and Bank Holidays (if they fall within the longer period).

    Surely this isn’t right? I’m not contracted to work for the hospital on those days so why are they penalising me for not being here? As far as I’m concerned, it’s none of their business what I do when I’m not supposed to be here whether I’m sick or healthy.

    There are enough issues to be going on within the NHS without this system undermining confidence even more.

    • Big_GH says:

      I feel for you Wendy, my brother-in-law works in the NHS and has also complained to me about this terrible practice.

      In some ways counting the weekend and bank holidays in your score actually helps you. Remember the weighting is heavily biased against multiple instances of sickness
      – if you are off on the Friday and Monday and you include the weekend, then your score will be 1 * 1 * 4 = 4.
      – if you do the same calculation as 2 instances (just the Friday and Monday), you score 2 * 2 * 2 = 8.
      – obviously the best situation is to treat it as one instance of 2 days, so your score would be 1 * 1 * 2 = 2.

      It has taken a little bit of education of our team to understand how to enter time off into our software. As you state, it doesn’t seem fair to count weekends as time off, so a few people did enter their days off as 2 instances, but that was really bad for their score. Fortunately, in our system if you do include the weekend as part of your time off, the system is clever enough not to count those days. Are you sure that your system is actually counting all the days you are entering?

      I think managers are using this system without thinking about the effects (other than reducing sick days). Why would you want sick people coming into work (especially if they are front line staff in a hospital)? Why can’t you trust your staff to decide if they are too ill for work or not? Does a score and fear of that score help motivate people?

  3. zoe cooper says:

    i add 2 days off with d and v then a couple of days off with copd which laed me too have 120 points then ive been off again with copd on 2 different times thats taken me to 160 points in which i tryed too go back too work and was sent home told that i could not work like that i have copd for life ive stopped smocking but now they are saying because i have 160 points i can not work overtime shocking

  4. Laura S says:

    I had two weeks off sick over Christmas (14th to 27th Dec) and my sick note ran out on the 27th however due to the bank holiday I wasn’t able to go back to the doctors to state I was ok to go back to work until the 29th, therefore I have been put down as sick on the 28th. I have checked my Bradford Factor Score and I have been given points for the two bank holidays. I am a little bit confused as whether I should be given Bradford Factor Points when it is a bank holiday and I am not expected to work on these days. Please can anyone clarify this for me?

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