Ask Kate: I’m not sure if I need to let my staff finish work early when the clocks go back. Help!

  • Employment Contract
A woman confidently poses - caption above her says 'Ask Kate'
Kate Palmer FCIPD - Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director

(Last updated )

Whenever a staff issue comes up, Peninsula advisers are on hand to help. There’s no query too big, too small, or too bizarre for our experts to unpack.

So, if you’re sitting on a query, don’t hesitate to ask. It’s what keeps our Peninsula clients safe and successful all year round and gives them the peace of mind to focus on their business.

This caller was worried about how the clocks going back affected their workers’ hours and pay. So, they asked Kate Palmer, Peninsula’s HR Advice and Consultancy Director, for expert advice.

Here’s what they had to say…

Hi Kate,

I recently opened up a fast food takeaway that’s open 24 hours. So as you can imagine, I have a lot of staff working overnight. I know the clocks are going back soon, which means my night staff will end up working longer than usual.

I pay all my workers hourly so does this mean I would have to pay them for the extra hour? Or should I let them go home an hour early? I’d rather not let them finish early but I don’t know what the right protocol is here!

Thanks,

-Anon

Kate’s reply was…

Hi Anon,

When the clocks go back on 30th October, businesses who employ night staff will all be in the same boat. It’s a tricky one at first glance, but hopefully this clears things up for you.

“Should I let them go home early?”

My first piece of advice would be to check your employment contracts. You’ll find your answer in the wording.

If your contracts specify when your staff have to work, for example between the hours of ‘11pm and 7am’, they should work the extra hour unless you say otherwise. That’s because while their contract says they have to work between certain hours of the day, it doesn’t mention the number of hours.

So, even if your staff lose or gain an hour of work, they’d still have a contractual obligation to work between those hours.

However, if your contract specifies that your employee should work a set number of hours (like a nine-hour shift), then you should let them finish early if the extra hour would take them over their limit.

You will also need to consider if your employee working that extra hour means:

  • They exceed their maximum weekly working hours.

Under the Working Time Regulations, people can only work an average of 48 hours a week as a maximum unless they opt out.

  • They break night time working rules.

It’s important to remember that legally, a night worker can only work a maximum of eight hours within a 24-hour period.

“Do I have to pay them for the extra hour?”

As you mention, you pay your staff an hourly wage which is typical for staff who work irregular shift patterns. Because you pay hourly, you should pay your staff for the extra hour if they’re working longer than they’re supposed to.

Making a decision about pay comes down to what’s in your worker’s contract. You don’t legally have to pay them for the extra hour unless their contract specifies how many hours they should work.

However, you’ll need to take care that staff working an extra hour doesn’t drop their average hourly rate to below the national minimum wage in the pay reference period.

“I’d rather not let them finish early but I don’t know what the right protocol is here!”

If your staff don’t have a contractual obligation to work that extra hour, you could agree with them to work the extra hour now and give them the time off in lieu or pay them for it.

I would recommend doing this because making staff work longer without extra pay or promise of the time back could be damaging to morale. And it would be a breach of contract to make someone work over their contractual hours (unless their contract says they may have to work on top of their usual working hours).

If you think a problem like this could crop up again, it may be best to amend your staff contracts. It’s important to remember, however, that you would need your worker’s consent to do this.

You may want to give our blog: should staff work an extra hour when clocks go back a read. This covers pay and minimum wage requirements, how to support staff who are working overtime, and your options if you want staff to work the extra time when they’re not contractually obliged.

Hope this helps. And if you’d like to speak to an expert about this further, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

All the best,

Kate.

P.S. Got a HR query or staff problem? Click below to get a free advice call today.

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