When do the clocks change in 2023 in the UK and why do we change them? Origin explained

The tradition of changing the clocks in Britain dates back to over a century, here’s what you should know.
The tradition of changing the clocks in Britain dates back to over a century, here’s what you should know.

The clocks are set to go back next month as the UK transitions out of British Summer Time (BST) to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). With radiators at the ready, the change comes with great trepidation for many as it means bidding adieu to the warmer months of summer as we prepare for the chilly embrace of winter.

While changing the clocks is a tradition that dates back over a century, there are some who have advocated scrapping the system altogether.

So, here is everything you need to know about when the clocks change, why we do that, and which other countries apart from the UK practice this system.

When do the clocks change?

This year, the clocks will go back on Sunday, October 29. When this occurs, 2am will rewind to 1am which means the sun starts setting earlier and the days get shorter - it is an extra hour in bed, however.

Next year, the clocks will go forward on Sunday, March 31, by an hour.

Why do we change our clocks?

British Summer Time was introduced via the Summer Time Act of 1916. An Edwardian builder named William Willett had the idea to propose a system in which the clocks would go forwards and backwards in spring and winter respectively so people took advantage of more daylight hours which in turn saved energy.

This is why we call it Daylight Saving Time. He first published the idea in 1907 but it took until 1916 (World War 1) to implement it and it is believed the government did so as they thought it would reduce demands on coal. That said, the idea of preserving daylight via clock changes was not first noted by Willett.

Clock Change Autumn
Clock Change Autumn

In 1784, one of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, addressed the concept in a letter sent to the editor of the Journal of Paris. Although the letter was said to be ‘satirical’, Franklin noted that people getting up earlier while it was lighter would save on candle expenses.

Ancient Romans had a similar practice to maximise their time efficiency. According to History Hit: “The Romans kept time with water clocks that had different scales for different times of the year.”

Will my clock update automatically?

For smartphones, computers or other devices with an internet connection, they should update their clocks automatically. However, for many watches and clocks (in your car, for example) there is a strong likelihood these will not change so be ready to do so by yourself.

What if I’m working when the clocks go back?

For those who are not curled up in bed at 2am e.g., night shift workers, it is often of concern if they will need to work an extra hour. According to Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG): “Night workers are often advised to check their contracts and discuss the situation with their employer.

Smartphone and Laptop
Smartphone and Laptop

“By law however, night workers must not work more than an average of 8 hours in a 24-hour period.”

Do other countries change the clocks?

RMG reports that roughly 70 countries use some form of daylight saving time but it varies between regions. Many nations across Europe, North America and some parts of Australasia and South America implement clock changes.

RMG explains: “In March 2019, the European Parliament backed a proposal to end the practice of changing the clocks in European Union states.

“The proposal was originally meant to be introduced in 2021, but the amendment has not taken legal effect. EU states continue to use daylight saving time.”

Dog Sleeping in Bed
Dog Sleeping in Bed