Every year the clocks in the UK go back in the autumn and then forward again in spring, when the nation enters British Summer Time.
GERMANY, BONN – DECEMBER 31: Symbol photo on the topics time change, 3 am, 2 am, energy, health, etc. The picture shows a sleeping man and two alarm clocks, whose hands are on two o’clock (2 am) and three o’clock (3 am) in the morning.
Every year, the clocks go back in autumn and forward again in spring – and yet some people still get caught out.
These days, your smartphone updates the time automatically, but when the fateful day comes you’ll still have to go around the house adjusting any analogue timepieces you have.
Currently, the UK is operating on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) – this means that next time the clocks change they go forward, which moves us into British Summer Time (BST).
Here’s everything you need to know about why the clocks go forward and back, and when they are changing in 2022.
When do the clocks go forward in 2022?
The clocks always go forward at 1.00am on the final Sunday of March. Last year, this fell on the 28th, and in 2022 the clocks are change on Sunday 27 March.
By switching to BST we will get more daylight in the evening, but sadly your Sunday morning lie-in will be cut short by an hour on the day itself.
The change always happens on a weekend, in the middle of the night, to ensure that there is limited disruption for schools and businesses.
In autumn the clocks go back again on the final Sunday of October at 2.00am, which means this year they will change on Sunday 30 October, a day earlier than in 2021.
This signals the end of BST, or Daylight Saving Time (DST), and means the UK reverts to GMT until the spring, the standard time zone against which all others in the world are referenced.
That change gives us an extra precious hour of daylight in the dark autumn and winter months, with the added bonus of an extra hour in bed on the Sunday morning when the clocks change.
Why do we change the clocks?
Initially the clocks were changed to save energy and get people outside. Why waste electricity when there is perfectly good daylight to be used?
The campaign for British Summer Time came about at the beginning of the 20th century. Moving the clocks forward in the summer months would give us darker mornings but lighter, longer evenings.
The idea was proposed in Britain by builder William Willett, says Dr Richard Dunn, senior curator for the History of Science at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
Willett was “incensed at the ‘waste’ of useful daylight during the summer. Though the sun had been up for hours as he rode his horse through Chislehurst and Petts Wood, people were still asleep in bed”.
British Summer Time was adopted in Britain in 1916 to save fuel and money.
Since then, Britain toyed with moving the clocks a number of times, including bringing them forward two hours ahead of GMT during the Second World War. They were also brought forward for periods in the spring of 1947, in line with fuel shortages.
There was an experiment, between 1968 and 1971, which kept clocks one hour ahead of GMT all year round.
Britain then reverted to our now familiar system of GMT in the winter and summer time in between March and October.
Why is there controversy over British Summer Time?
Although, no one seems to complain about the aforementioned extra hour in bed in the autumn, some have campaigned for British time to be brought in line with other European countries to reduce accidents.
This would make it two hours ahead of GMT in the summer and one hour ahead in the winter.
Errol Taylor, the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said in 2019: “Clock changes were first introduced in 1916 to reflect the needs of a nation at war. However, our priority now should be the prevention road accidents that cause serious injury and death.
“We know that the clock change kills people. During the working week, casualty rates peak at 8am and 10am and 3pm and 7pm, with the afternoon peak being higher. Road casualty rates increase with the arrival of darker evenings and worsening weather conditions.
“And it is vulnerable road users – such as children on their way home from school and cyclists – who would experience the most benefit. Anything we can do to bring these rates down has to be worth it.
“While we respect the views of those that want to keep the current system, we must not lose sight of the fact that lives are at stake.”
Others want to forego turning the clocks back in October.
“One of the main reasons against keeping British Summer Time all year round, which would mean not putting the clocks back in October, concerns people in Scotland, where sunrise might not be until as late as 10am,” says Dr Dunn.
“Among other things, this would mean children travelling to and from school in darkness, putting them at greater risk. Lighter mornings in the winter are also better for postal workers and those in construction and farming, who typically begin work much earlier than many others.”
Others say we spend so much time inside – in offices, for instance – that daylight saving no longer really matters.