How Daylight Saving Screws Our Shift Workers
The end of daylight savings gives you an extra hour of morning sun -- but it also duds our hard-working nurses and police into working an extra hour for free.
Each April, the clocks go back one hour in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory.
The clocks in those states move forward one hour in October, giving residents an extra hour of sun to enjoy in the evenings, but then daylight savings ends on the first Sunday in April, to give back that hour in the mornings when the days are shorter.
Most people love daylight savings in summer when it leads to longer warm evenings where you can swim at the beach or linger in the sun long after you finish work.
But in April, it's a different story, as those unlucky enough to work through the wee hours of the morning have another insult added to their unsociable hours -- having to effectively work an extra hour for free.
When the clocks turned back one hour at 3am on Sunday morning, it meant the 2am hour was effectively worked twice, meaning countless nurses, doctors, police, bar workers and more across the country ended up working an extra hour.
"The accepted practice is that if you work the extra hour then you just wear it," Nick, a psychiatric nurse in Sydney's west, told 10 daily.
"Most people tolerate the arrangement without too much stress."
Many police, emergency call centre workers, bar staff and firefighters generally work to this arrangement. However, some staff are lucky enough to get paid for that extra hour too.
The Fair Work Ombudsman's website advises that employees who work through the changeover period should check their award, agreement or contract to see if it has any specific conditions relating to daylight savings -- but that employees are generally paid "according to the clock", meaning that when the clocks go back an hour, it means they generally will have to work one hour for free.
"Daylight saving time ends with rolling the clock back from 3am to 2am. This means that employees working an overnight shift work one hour more but aren't paid for that extra hour," the FWO said.
"When daylight saving time started and the clock was rolled forward, employees worked one hour less but should have been paid according to the clock."
Brett Holmes, general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, said that things usually balance out.
"Daylight savings is a swings and roundabouts issue. The topic does come up each year because there’s always someone who is disadvantaged. For permanent staff there’s currently no way around it," he told 10 daily.
"That said, we don’t often have people working permanent nights who wouldn’t then benefit when the clocks go forward an hour. But there is no industrial solution – it’s just an accepted, swings and roundabouts reality of our professions.”
10 daily has contacted the Australian Council of Trade Unions, for comment.
Natalie, a nurse at a major Sydney hospital, said she has worked through both daylight savings changeover periods so that it often "evens out" in the long run.
"In my workplace, we don't get hours back or time in lieu. It's shift work, you can't just leave a patient early one day," she told 10 daily.
"They normally expect you to work an hour free, but they might give you a longer break during the shift. I would prefer to get an extra hour of holidays or get paid for an extra hour. I'm not happy to work an extra hour for free, but you just do it."
"But for the shorter shift, when the clocks go forward, you get paid regularly for a regular shift."
"When the clocks go forward and you effectively work an hour less, then you get paid for the lost hour," he said, calling it "your good luck."
So if you had to work through daylight savings changeover this week, sorry! But we hope you'll get it back when daylight savings comes back in October. We're already counting down to it!
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