Last reviewed 19 October 2020
With daylight saving time coming to an end at 2am on Sunday 25 October 2020, and starting again at 1am on Sunday 28 March 2021, employers should decide what this means for staff who are working when the clocks change. Ben McCarthy, employment law writer at Croner-i, outlines the points to consider.
Daylight saving time takes place when clocks are advanced forward an hour during the summer months in order to make evening daylight last longer. For most employees, this is unlikely to make much difference to their working day, as long as they make sure they come into work at the new time and avoid being late. However, the situation does change slightly for employees who are actually working when the change takes place. Whether an hour is being gained, as in October, or lost, as in March, there is a knock-on impact on working time, and pay, that employers must be aware of.
Working time in October
Although many people will be tucked up in bed at 2am, the employees most affected will be those who are partway through a shift. While a lot of the businesses that would usually be affected by this change, such as hospitality, will be closed at this time for this year, it is important to note that this could still impact on other companies remaining open at night. The result of the clock change is that employees may be required to work an extra hour; what was an eight-hour shift will now actually be nine hours in order to accommodate the change. In this situation, the first port of call is to check employee contracts to see how their working hours are specifically outlined. At its simplest form, a contract which states the employees’ shift starts at 12am and finishes at 8am will require the employee to work a shift of nine hours. On the flip side, a contract which says the shift lasts for eight hours starting from 12am will allow the employee to leave at 7am, as they will have technically worked the eight hours by this time. In this situation, the employer may consider agreeing with their employee that they will work the extra hour and leave at their normal time, with their salary being amended to reflect this.
There are also the legal working limits to consider. Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, adult workers must not work for more than 48 hours per week on average over a 17-week period, unless they have signed an opt-out form. The extra hour also has the potential to affect the working time rights of night shift workers. All night workers must not work, on average, more than eight hours in any 24-hour period and are entitled to a 20-minute rest break when working more than six hours a day. The added-on hour may therefore serve to take average hours worked over these limits, potentially leading to employers breaching the regulations without intending to. It is therefore important to consider how this extra hour will be treated. Employers are free to decide how they will do this, subject to any contractual entitlements, but they should always act consistently and fairly. One option to consider is allowing employees to go home an hour later when the clocks go forward in the spring, essentially cancelling out the extra hour worked now in the autumn.
Pay in October
When considering how much employees should be paid in this situation, employers should again refer to their contract. A contract that states an individual is entitled to hourly pay for every hour worked will mean that they should be paid extra if they work the extra hour. The only way to avoid this would be to allow them to finish an hour early or start later; meaning their normal working hours would not be affected. Generally, salaried workers will receive their normal salary regardless of whether they work any extra time, meaning that their employer would likely not have to increase their usual salary in this situation. This is because a salaried employee is more likely than an hourly paid employee to be required to work extra hours without additional pay, and to be entitled to pay even if they work fewer hours. That said, it should be considered if the company’s overtime rules would apply in this situation. It should also be remembered that salaried workers still need to receive the legal minimum wage for this period so, if they are paid National Minimum Wage or just above, they may have to be paid the extra hour to receive their legal minimum entitlement.
How the situation differs in March
When the clocks go forward an hour in March, it is a slightly different situation. Employers do not need to be concerned about the risk of paying under the National Minimum Wage or breaking working time rules. However, they should bear in mind that employees will technically be working an hour less in their shift as a result of the clock change; for example, an employee working an eight-hour shift will actually only work for seven hours instead of eight. Again, whether the employer will need to pay their employees for a full, eight-hour shift in this situation will depend upon the contract of employment. As with October, employers can choose how they treat this hour lost subject to the terms and conditions of the employee’s contract but should always respond to this fairly. If staff do work an extra hour in October, and it is agreed that they should be able to work an hour less in March, employers should try to make sure they are working the shift in which the clocks will change. If they cannot work this shift for whatever reason, they should be able to take the hour back at another time.
This situation only occurs twice a year and, provided employers take steps to prepare for it, it shouldn’t cause too much of an issue. That said, companies must be mindful of the potential issues that can arise as a result of this time change and how it can impact upon the management of employees overall. To this end, it is usually advisable to warn employees of the impending change and how they should make sure that their clocks, and alarms, are amended accordingly. This is particularly important if the employee is due in work following the change on a Sunday morning.