Friday, February 29, 2008


By Steve Tomkins
It comes but once every four years and this 29 February some workers are being given the extra day as holiday. Employers won't like the idea, but we tend to look at additional time as a gift.
Imagine that to adjust our timekeeping, ten minutes had to be added to one day each year. You would expect them to be ten minutes of free time, yours to spend as you will. You'd be miffed if they were added to one of your working hours, getting ten minutes more work out of you for no extra money.
But is this what leap year does to us? If you're on an annual salary, you will get the same pay as normal this year, while working one extra day. Is 29 February just another working Friday, or a sneaky bonus for your employer? Who does 29 February belong to?

He gets the day offIf you're starting to feel like a holiday today, you might be interested to hear that the National Trust has granted its whole workforce the day off. Calling it the Great Green Leap Day, they are asking staff to use it for the environment. "We're giving them this opportunity to look at steps to green their own lives at home," explains Mike Holland of the Trust. "Anything from converting to greener energy to starting a compost heap."
Just how many will be converting, composting and otherwise greening and how many will be shopping is hard to say, but Holland hopes most of the workforce have caught the vision. He says it would be good to see other workplaces catch it, so if you can just wait till 2012 there might be one for you too.
The National Trust does not want anyone to feel short-changed by their own employer. But if you do feel that way, then according to Steve Taylor, the author of Making Time: Why Time Seems to Pass at Different Speeds and How to Control It, there may be something in it.
Time as a 'gift'
The book argues that the way we perceive time is more real than the way we measure it. How else does time pass, except in our consciousness - sometimes faster, sometimes slower? When it comes to the extra day, like the extra hour when the clocks go back, he says, "We look on that time as a gift - just as in other ways we try to subtract time, like when we're on a long journey and immerse attention in a book".

Every fourth year is a leap year, unless it is divisible by 100 and not by 400
So 2000 was a leap year, as was, for those who can't remember it, 1600
1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years
The next such non-leap year is 2100
Perhaps, he agrees, employers may be getting an extra unpaid day out of us. "But then in a sense," he adds, "they own us already. We give half our waking hours to them, voluntarily, and our time is our lives - we're literally giving ourselves away." A thought which makes you want to hold on to any disputed days tighter than ever.
Where did this extra day come from in the first place? We need the leap day because of the deplorable untidiness of our solar system. One of our earth years (a complete orbit around the sun) does not take an exact number of whole days (one complete spin of the earth on its axis). In fact, it takes 365.2422 days, give or take.
The leap year was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46BC, to make the calendar tidier. The extra day every fourth year made the average year 365.25 days long.

This was still about 12 minutes longer than the solar year, which you can get away with on the short term, but in 1267 a monk called Roger Bacon noticed that the calendar had slipped nine days in the 13 intervening centuries.

Gregory XIII: Said to have provoked protests after 'stealing' 10 days It then took the church until 1582 to accept that it was celebrating Easter on the wrong week. That year Pope Gregory XIII adjusted the calendar, introducing the system we go by today: every fourth year is a leap year, unless it is divisible by 100 and not by 400. This makes the year 365.2425 days, which is still a little under 26 seconds too long, but nothing to fret about.
As a one off, Gregory's reform also skipped the 10 days they had gained since Caesar's time, jumping from 4 to 15 October 1582. It is said that this provoked demonstrations from people demanding their stolen days back.
So how about demos today, to reclaim the working day pinched from employees by their employers? Go for it, brothers and sisters, but the TUC will not be organising it.
A spokesperson says: "Salaried workers usually receive their annual salary in twelve monthly payments and know when they accept a job that some months are longer than others and that leap years come round once every so often. Indeed, leap years have been with us 1582, so the UK workforce has had a while to get used to the idea of an extra day every four years."
OK, off you go then, back to work.



Blogger joco said...

Interesting point of view.
I never saw it like that.

BTW, I would like to read about your garden = that is how I got here. Labels don't seem to work.

5:20 pm  

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