The practice of turning the clocks back in the UK during autumn has been a long-standing tradition that raises a multitude of questions and stirs both support and opposition, suggests David Little, a partner in our Corporate and Commercial Law team.
As we have just experienced, Daylight Saving Time (DST) involves setting the clocks back one hour in the autumn and forward one hour in the spring. This practice serves to maximize daylight during the longer days of spring and summer while conserving energy. In the UK, the transition to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) from British Summer Time (BST) occurs in October.
The idea of Daylight Saving Time dates back to the 18th century, but it was not officially implemented until World War I. The concept of shifting the clocks forward in the summer and back in the winter was introduced as a means to conserve energy and maximise productivity during wartime. Here in the UK we adopted the practice and continued it during World War II.
In the post-war period, the practice fell in and out of favour but was eventually standardised with the passage of the Summer Time Act in 1972. This legislation established the schedule we follow today, with the clocks going back on the last Sunday in October. The history of DST in the UK reveals that its primary motivation has been energy conservation, but its continuation into peacetime raises questions about its relevance and commercial justification.
One of the primary reasons for turning the clocks back in the autumn is energy conservation. By shifting an hour of daylight from the evening to the morning, it is believed that people use less electricity for lighting and heating, ultimately reducing energy consumption. This was particularly important during the World Wars when resources were scarce, but even in the modern era, energy conservation remains a key factor in the justification for DST.
However, the energy-saving benefits of DST are a topic of debate. Some studies have shown that the energy savings are relatively modest and can vary depending on geographical location and climate. The amount of energy saved may not be significant enough to justify the disruption caused by changing the clocks twice a year. This raises questions about whether there are other commercial justifications for continuing the practice.
Beyond energy conservation, there are several commercial justifications for continuing Daylight Saving Time in the UK.
Retail Sales: One of the significant commercial benefits of DST is the boost it provides to retail sales. Longer daylight hours in the evening encourage people to go out shopping after work or engage in recreational activities, leading to increased consumer spending. Retailers often see a surge in sales during the months when DST is in effect, as people are more likely to shop, dine out, or participate in outdoor activities in the extended evening daylight.
Tourism and Hospitality: The tourism and hospitality industries also benefit from DST. Longer evenings mean tourists can spend more time exploring and enjoying local attractions. The extended daylight encourages people to book vacations and take weekend trips, which is a boon for the tourism sector. Similarly, the extended daylight in the evenings attracts more patrons to bars and restaurants, further boosting the hospitality industry.
Outdoor Activities: DST encourages outdoor activities and sports, leading to increased participation in events like football matches, running races, and outdoor concerts. This increased interest in outdoor activities has a positive impact on the commercial organizations that support and sponsor these events.
Economic Growth: The combination of increased retail sales, tourism, and outdoor activities contributes to overall economic growth. A stimulated economy often translates to job creation and increased business opportunities. This, in turn, justifies the continuation of DST from a commercial perspective.
Health and wellbeing: The extended daylight hours provided by DST have been linked to improved mental health and well-being. Longer evenings promote physical activity and outdoor socialization, which can reduce stress and improve overall health. A healthier and happier population can be more productive and may place less strain on the healthcare system, further justifying the practice.
Whilst I hate turning the clocks back, there are still valid arguments for re-evaluating the relevance of DST in the modern era, these commercial benefits provide a compelling case for its continuation. The debate over whether to maintain or abandon Daylight Saving Time will likely persist, but its importance to various commercial sectors should not be overlooked when considering its future. Ultimately, the decision to keep or discard this long-standing tradition in the UK will depend on a complex interplay of economic, social, and environmental factors.
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David Little is a Partner at Bishop & Sewell in our expert Corporate & Commercial team. If you would like to contact him, please quote Ref CB430 on either on either 07968 027343 / 020 7631 4141 or email email@example.com.
The above is accurate as at 30 October 2023. The information above may be subject to change.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.