Calculating an employee’s Bradford Factor is fairly simple. The real challenge is interpreting the results. This calculator will help you do both.
The Bradford Factor is a metric that measures how healthy the paid time off your employees take is. It favors longer stretches of planned PTO over spontaneous one-off absences.
For example, if you take 15 days off one day at a time scattered over the year, your Bradford score will be 3375, which is so high it’s not even on the chart.
If you take the same amount of days in 3 stretches, your Bradford score will be 135 which is average.
The Bradford score is not about how much PTO you take, but how you take it.
The pretext is that frequent, unplanned, emergency PTO is disruptive for companies and employees who take it should face disciplinary action. The Bradford factor was created as an objective metric that can identify such employees. It’s not that simple though.
The Bradford Factor treating every absence the same is not a strength, it’s a weakness. It’s tied to a specific time in history as well as a specific region, so even though it claims to be universal and fair, it’s not really the case.
The Bradford Factor calculation is based on a study from the 80s. Work was different back then. Modern offices offer more PTO, better flexibility and managers are taught to be empathetic.
Companies are starting to realize that the only way to keep employees happy is to create a better work-life balance. The idea of disciplining someone because they take short stretches of PTO rather than week long vacations becomes increasingly out of reach.
The average employee in Europe has a Bradford Factor so high, it’s not even on the scale. Countries that mandate 25 days of paid days off would get skewed data. Companies that offer unlimited PTO would also see alarmingly high scores. This metric was created with 80s US workers in mind and that’s who it’s based around.
The Bradford score does not take into account people with disabilities, chronic illness or working parents. These groups of people are likely to spend their PTO on unexpected one offs rather than vacations booked ahead of time.
The Bradford Factor can still give you information you can use to better understand your team. If you take an inquisitive look at the data, rather than a disciplinarian one, you can use it to measure work-life balance and recognise early signs of burnout.
Employees using up PTO to deal with one day emergencies is more disrupting to them than to the company. Nobody wants to take 12 days off one day at a time to deal with sick family members, depression or mental exhaustion, but it happens. Not taking PTO long enough to relax can lead to burnout, which is harder to fix than to prevent.
Look at high Bradford scores through a mental health lense with the wellbeing of your team as top priority. Everyone should get a chance to actually relax and disconnect and the Bradford Factor can tell you when that’s not the case.
Analyzing Bradford should always be a case-by-case process. You can’t measure a single parent’s PTO the same way you measure an employee with no dependents. Bradford can quickly filter out employees you don’t need to worry about at all so you have time to focus on those who need your individual attention.
Too low. If this is a full time employee, you might want to encourage them to take more time off to recharge.
51 - 150
The average US employee
151 - 300
Slightly above average. If this is a new employee, have a look at their absences to see what’s happening. No need to alert the employee.
301 - 500
Notably above average. At this point you can bring this up with the employee during a 1:1 meeting. Ask about their health, changes in life, their energy levels. Screen for early signs of burnout.
501 - 700
PTO of this sort is not sustainable in the long-run. A score this high warrants a 1:1 centered around the negative mental health impacts of scattered PTO.
It’s worth looking for the cause of a score this high. It might be a sign of burnout or poor work-life balance.
Try the Burnout Risk Calculator to identify common signs of burnout.