Working when the clocks go forward: how should employers handle losing an hour?

working time
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The clocks go forward an hour at 1:00am on Sunday 26 March 2017. But what does this mean for staff working a night shift? How does it affect their pay? Can they go home at their usual home time, even though they have worked less time?

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

Generally, it is for employers to decide how to handle the situation, but it is subject to national minimum wage regulations, working time rules, 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 forward. For example, a shift could be said to be from 10pm to 6am or the requirement could be to work an “eight-hour shift”.

When the clocks go back, employers don’t necessarily have to pay employees for working an hour longer on a particular shift.

Similarly, when the clocks go forward, employers don’t necessarily have to pay for a full shift if employees are working for less time; it will depend on the wording of the employment contract.

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, and to be entitled to pay even if they work fewer hours.

Unlike when the clocks go back, when the clocks go forward, the employer need not be concerned about the risk of paying under the national minimum wage or breaking working time rules, if employees end up working for an extra hour.

They should, however, be aware of the wording of contracts that entitle employees to receive pay, for example for 35 hours per week, even though only 34 hours have been worked.

Employers can of course always choose to pay their employees, for example, for a full eight-hour shift, even if staff have only worked seven hours, regardless of their contractual obligations.

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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