Working when the clocks go back: how should employers handle extra hour?

Roadworks often take place overnight. What are workers' rights if their shift covers 2am on Sunday 30 October?Richard Sowersby/REX/Shutterstock.
Roadworks often take place overnight. What are workers' rights if their shift covers 2am on Sunday 30 October?
Richard Sowersby/REX/Shutterstock.

The clocks go back an hour at 2am on Sunday 30 October 2016. But what does this mean for staff working a night shift? Must they be paid for working an extra hour? Or can they go home when they’ve worked their usual number of hours, even when the clock says they have an hour to go?

The clocks changing from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time can cause confusion among employees and employers if staff are working overnight.

Generally, it is for employers to decide how they handle the situation, but this is subject to the statutory rules on the national minimum wage and working time, and anything contained in the employees’ contracts of employment.

Check the wording of contracts

Employers should check the wording of the contracts of employees who are working when the clocks go back. For example, a shift could be said to be from 10pm to 6am or the requirement could be to work an “eight-hour shift”.

Employers don’t necessarily have to pay employees for working an hour longer on a particular shift.

The situation can differ for hourly paid and salaried employees.

A salaried employee is more likely than an hourly paid employee to be required to work extra hours without additional pay. However, as long as the employer is paying at least the national minimum wage, entitlement to payment will depend on the employer’s rules on overtime.

Of course, employers can always choose to pay their employees for the extra hour, or to allow them to go home once they’ve worked the normal number of hours, regardless of their contractual obligations.

Don’t fall below the national minimum wage

If an employee who is paid at or near the national minimum wage rate works an extra hour when the clocks go back, the employer must be careful that the extra hour does not take the employee’s pay below the relevant rate.

Check the rules on working time

Employers should also be careful that the extra hour does not lead to a breach of the rules on maximum night time working hours and minimum rest breaks.

Be consistent

For some workers, the position will even out when they gain an hour when the clocks go forward again.

But this won’t always be the case – a worker who works an extra hour in October might not be working the night shift when the clocks go forward again in March.

Nevertheless, in the interests of fairness, employers that require employees to work by the clock in October should do the same in March, when they will be able to go home after working an hour less.

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