‘Fall Back, Spring Forwards’- How Do the Clocks Going Back Affect Working Time?

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Avensure ‘Fall Back Spring Forwards' Can The Clocks Going Back Impact Working Time

When are the clocks going back? It’s that time of year again when we say our goodbyes to British Summer Time (BST) and ask ourselves, ‘Do we get an extra hour in bed or an hour less?’

On Sunday at 2 a.m., the clock changes and goes back by one hour, and for those employees who won’t be tucked up in bed and who are working a night shift, we ask if there are any HR implications to daylight savings that employers ought to be prepared for.

Why do clock changes Happen twice a year?

When summertime hours end and the clock changes, they go back by one hour. This marks the end of BST and is referred to as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and despite the same ritual occurring every year, someone in the workplace will be guaranteed to proclaim their astonishment at how early ‘the nights are drawing in’.

So, what’s the history behind this peculiar occurrence?

According to BBC Science Focus, Daylight Saving Time (DST) is intended to make better use of available daylight hours by borrowing an hour of daylight from the morning and adding it to the end of the day.

The origins of Daylight Saving Time are disputed, but it is thought to have been suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 as a way of saving money on candles, a cause later championed by William Willett in 1907, who wrote a pamphlet entitled ‘The Waste of Daylight’ and who believed a better use of daylight would be good for recreation (Mr Willett was a keen golfer) and would save costs.

However, it wasn’t until 1916 that the UK (and Germany) formally introduced DST in order to conserve energy costs during the war.

What about staff working night shifts?

When the clock changes, we gain an hour. How this impacts those working night shifts on this date will depend on the wording of the employment contract.

If the shift has a set start and finish time, for example, 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., the employee will effectively have worked an hour more when the clocks go back. The employee will not be entitled to leave an hour early unless they have sought permission to leave early from their employer.

If the shift merely specifies a set number of hours to be worked, i.e., the employee is required to work an 8-hour shift, the business can reasonably expect the employee to work 8 hours, but the effect of the clocks going back means that the usual 8-hour shift may end up being 9 hours long, in which case the employer should not just assume the employee will work an extra hour.

The HR implications to daylight savings mean that communication is important here to avoid a situation where an employee required to work an 8-hour shift simply downs tools when they’ve put their 8 hours in regardless of the time, and you are left short-staffed!

Employers should get ahead by discussing the clock changes with affected staff to ensure there are no misunderstandings or potential disputes.

Could an extra hour of work result in a minimum wage breach?

Potentially, yes!

It’s vital that employers check the contract, as the impact of hourly versus salaried pay will be different.

Hourly paid employees, who may clock in/out or submit timesheets, will need to be paid if they work an extra hour when the clock changes and goes back.

If the employee is salaried, it may be that their pay will even out when it comes to the start of British summertime hours (BST) and the clocks go forward, but there is no guarantee that the same employee will be working a night shift when this happens.

Salaried staff who are paid above the national minimum wage are not likely to have their average earnings fall below the minimum wage rates for the sake of working an extra hour, but employers do need to be careful not to breach the contract by failing to pay a salaried employee for any additional hours they are entitled to, especially if the contract states that additional hours or overtime are paid at a higher rate of pay.

Could I give time off in lieu of extra pay?

Generally speaking, it is advisable to pay staff for extra hours worked, but you may agree with your staff that they will receive time off in lieu if the clock changes and they have to work an extra hour.

Make sure that the contract permits this and that if this is what you intend to do, you agree to this with your staff prior to doing so in order to prevent confusion or disputes.

Don’t forget to make sure staff receive adequate rest breaks At Work!

If your staff end up working an extra hour, it is vital that this be taken into account when recording working hours for the purposes of ensuring adequate rest breaks at work and in-shift break times.

Employees must by law receive a rest break of at least 20 minutes when they work 6 hours or more, so if the clock changes mean that someone works an extra hour and, instead of doing a 6-hour shift, ends up doing 7, you need to make sure they receive a break.

And finally, a quick quiz question for the history buffs out there (no cheating!).

Question: William Willett campaigned for daylight saving time (to no avail) during his lifetime, but Mr. Willett has a very famous great-great-grandson. Who is he?

  1. Robert Pattinson
  2. Chris Martin
  3. Tom Hanks
At 2 a.m. on Sunday, October 29, the clocks go back by one hour. We explore any HR implications employers need to be prepared for and how the clocks going back affect staff.


2. Chris Martin. Coldplay frontman Chris Martin is distantly related to William Willett, though we doubt this was the inspiration for Coldplay’s 2002 hit ‘Clocks’.

Meanwhile, Twilight star Robert Pattinson is reportedly a very distant relative of Vlad the Impaler, and Tom Hanks is said to be a direct descendant of Abraham Lincoln.

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