Daylight Saving Time Creates a Mini Y2K Crisis Twice a Year

On Sunday, November 1, in the wee hours of the morning (to me, 2 a.m. is definitely “wee”), many of us will turn our clocks back an hour. This reverses what we did on March 8th. Unfortunately, not having learned our lesson, we will start Daylight Saving Time (DST) all over again next year.

Various individuals have been singled out for blame in promoting DST, including an English architect, William Willett, an entomologist from New Zealand named George Hudson, and, yes, the otherwise esteemed Benjamin Franklin. The value of DST in today’s world is perhaps best summed up by Hudson’s rationale: it gives you more time to hunt for bugs.

Aside from DST striking yet another blow against a good night’s sleep, it complicates timekeeping, particularly for shift workers.

The periods of transition are intentionally scheduled to minimize disruption. Early Sunday, most of us are either asleep or drunk. Still, there are many employees whose hours straddle the change-over.

Consider the case of a nurse whose hours are 12:00 a.m. to 8 a.m. On November 1, that will be a 9-hour shift, since she “does over” the period from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. The usual time calculations, however, would dock her an hour, there being only 8 hours between 12:00 a.m. and 8 a.m. Some might say, “What’s the problem? She’ll make it back in the spring.” Most employers recognize that it is a problem. The extra hour might trigger overtime or even a violation of labor law if standard schedules skirt the edge of legality. Still, she can’t be let off at 7 a.m. without leaving the job unattended for an hour or throwing off the schedule going forward. The piper (or in this case, the nurse) must be paid.

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Looking at the negative effects of daylight savings time more closely, if you clock out under DST and come back under Standard Time, you can end up returning before you leave. Or you can take a whole hour off free since the difference between the times is zero. Remember Y2K when some thought the world as we knew it was about to end? The software industry went into a panic to change 2-digit dates to 4. DST creates a mini Y2K crisis twice a year.

If ever DST made sense, it clearly does not today. If reason were to prevail, we would abolish it. While we wait for that, employers should make sure that their time tracking software is up to the job of properly managing DST.

 


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