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A person pointing at a clock going backwards one hour

When do the UK's clocks go back in 2024?

Spring forward, fall back. Changing the clocks twice a year is just a normal part of life in the UK, but have you ever stopped to think about why we need to do it?

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At precisely 2.00am on Sunday, 27th October 2024, the clocks will go back one hour in the UK. The good news is that we’ll get another hour in bed, but the bad news is that it’ll be getting dark by 4.00pm the following day.

For those of us who cling onto the last dregs of sunshine and, maybe, even some passing warmth from the shrinking sun, this is the final nail in the coffin. The sun’s going on holiday and in exchange, you’ve got five months of cold and dark to look forward to. But why? The answer to this question may surprise you. And, no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the farmers, but it might have something to do with the soft rock band Coldplay.

Do other countries change their clocks?

The official world reference for time is Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), formally known as Greenwich Meantime (GMT) until 1972. Twice a year, about 70 countries, including the UK, the USA and all the countries in Europe (but not Brazil, Russia or China, for example) observe ‘Daylight Saving Time’ (DST).

In Europe, the start and the end of DST were standardised across the European Union on 22nd October 1995. Therefore, all the clocks change at the same time, ensuring the UK is always an hour behind (most of) Europe. So, when the UK switches to British Summer Time (BST) most of Europe switches to Central European Summer Time, and this has been retained despite Brexit.

When did DST begin?

Let’s be clear on one thing, you can’t magic daylight out of thin air. The basic principle is to transfer an hour of daylight from the evening to the morning, and that’s precisely what the Germans did two years into the First World War. Suffering from coal shortages they changed the clocks to preserve energy by adding an extra hour onto the start of the workday. This was the first time DST had been put into practice, but the concept was far from new.

Benjamin Franklin came up with a similar idea in a letter to Journal de Paris in 1784. He suggested the city could save an ‘immense sum’ by not burning candles in the dark evening hours, but he fell short of recommending the clocks change to facilitate this.

However, in the UK in 1900, a certain William Willet suggested to Parliament that changing the time would prevent ‘wasting’ daylight’. It’s been strongly suggested that his reason was to make the evenings lighter, so he had more time to play golf. In some respects, his wish came true when the UK adopted the German model in May 1916, and by 1918, the USA was on the same page.

So, it’s got nothing to do with farmers?

Fundamentally, no. In fact, farmers have even lobbied Parliament to get rid of it. Dairy farmers argue that changing the time upsets the routines of livestock and arable farmers complain they have to rush their crops to market because they’ve lost an hour in the morning. And it’s not just farmers in the UK, the same sentiment has been echoed over the EU and the USA.

Of course, there are plenty of other folks that want to see the end of DST. For a start, it’s been argued that DST doesn’t, ironically, save energy and it could be making people sick. For example, you’re more likely to have a heart attack (some reports suggest by as much as 20%) in the weeks following the switch from BST to DST (and vice versa), simply because of the disruption to your sleep pattern.

Why do we change our clocks?

It’s a good question, and there aren’t any clear answers, which is why there are always conversations taking place across the world about getting rid of DST. But don’t hold your breath.

The British Standard Time experiment, a period of permanent BST in the UK between February 1968 and November 1971, was dropped after failing to convince the powers that be (or the population for that matter) of its worth, despite an overall fall in traffic incidents.

Pros and cons of changing the clocks

Ever since 1916, the UK has put the clocks forward in late March by one hour from Universal Time Coordinated (UTC). This new time zone is known as British Summer Time (BST) and marks the official beginning of the summer season.

Lasting for seven months, there have been calls to scrap it, but also calls to see it extended all year round. We take a look at the pros and cons of moving the clocks forward.


The purpose of moving the clocks forward an hour is to make the evenings lighter. Those in the pro-BST camp argue that this extra hour of light makes a huge difference in several areas.

The first is road safety. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has argued that fewer accidents occur on the roads as fewer people are driving during the darker hours. From February 1968 to 1971, the British Standard Time experiment saw a period of permanent BST in the UK. One of its biggest findings was the drop in overall traffic accidents.

The next perk of BST is its positive impact on our general well-being and health. For example, it’s well proven that many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder during the darker months. The extra hour of daylight gained from BST encourages people to get outside more, increasing their vitamin D intake and motivating them to partake in more exercise. All in all, this has many positive benefits to our physical and mental health.

Studies have also shown that longer daylight hours lead to a reduction in crime and people feel safer walking home when it’s lighter.

Finally, it’s been argued that BST helps in the fight against climate change, with lighter evenings reducing energy consumption.


Whilst many health benefits come with increased hours of daylight, there are some drawbacks such as sleep disruption. Numerous studies have proven the health benefits of a good night’s sleep.

However, when the clocks go forward at the end of March, the switch interferes with our natural sleep rhythms. Even though it’s just one hour, it can completely throw off our internal clocks, leaving us less well-rested and therefore vulnerable to all the negative repercussions that come with a bad night's sleep.

Farmers have traditionally been opposed to BST due to the disruption it causes to their schedules. Dairy farmers argue that changing the time upsets the routines of livestock, whilst arable farmers bemoan the fact they have to rush their crops to market due to the loss of an hour in the morning.

The anti-BST camp also has its own claims about road safety. The change in time means that people who live further north have darker mornings, therefore, not only are morning commutes more hazardous but children walking to school are left more vulnerable in the dark.

These concerns are often echoed by those in industries that traditionally start earlier, such as postal workers.

As for the environmental benefits of BST, counterarguments suggest that the clock change actually has the opposite effect. For example, people may put extra lights on in the morning due to it being darker. If those lights were accidentally left on during the day, this could counter any energy benefit gained from BST in the evening.

Finally, whilst the British Standard Time experiment did note a reduction in traffic accidents, the whole thing failed to convince the government and the people that switching permanently was worth it.

For now, BST remains and the debate rages on!