Jackie Le Poidevin, Editor-in-Chief, HR Adviser


Get Set for Trio of New Employment Rights from April

From April, employees will gain three new rights, the Government has confirmed. These are the right to request flexible working from Day 1 in the job, the right to carer’s leave and added protection from redundancy for employees during pregnancy and on the return from family leave. I look at what’s happening and how you can prepare.

1. Flexible Working Changes

Currently, employees can only make a statutory flexible working request once they’ve worked for you for at least 26 weeks. The new Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 have now confirmed that this service requirement will be removed from 6 April 2024, enabling new starters to apply to work flexibly.

You’ll be able to turn down requests if you have a good business reason, just as you can now. However, we know from the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, which was passed in July, that some other changes to the flexible working regime are also in the offing. For example:

  1. Employees will able to make two flexible working requests every 12 months (rather than just one).
  2. You will have to respond to the request, including hearing any appeal, within 2 (rather than 3) months.

More regulations are needed to give effect to these provisions. However, it seems reasonable to assume they’ll emerge soon and these changes will also come into force from 6 April. An Acas consultation on a revised Code of Practice on responding to flexible working requests closed in September and the final version is also expected to be published early in the new year.

2. Carer’s Leave

In the last Ask the Experts Update, I said that we were still waiting for the regulations setting out the details of carer’s leave. The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 have now been published and, again, this right will take effect from 6 April 2024. The Regulations basically confirm the rules which I summarised in the last bulletin on giving notice and being able to take leave flexibly.

3. Enhanced Redundancy Protections

Although the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 was passed last May, we’ve again been waiting for regulations to implement the provisions. These have now been published.

Currently, before you make an employee on maternity leave, shared parental leave (SPL) or adoption leave redundant, you must offer them any suitable alternative vacancy ahead of anyone else you’ve provisionally selected for redundancy.

The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 extend this protection to:

  • Employees who inform you they are pregnant on or after 6 April 2024.
  • Employees who return from maternity or adoption leave on or after 6 April 2024, or who return from at least 6 consecutive weeks of SPL which started on or after 6 April. They will have protection for 18 months from the start of the expected week of childbirth or from when the child is placed for adoption. So, for example, an employee who takes 12 months’ maternity leave will receive an extra 6 months’ protection after her return to work (plus the added protection during pregnancy).

What to Do Now

  1. Identify which policies and procedures need updating before April.
  2. Consider whether you wish to follow the flexible working and carer’s leave rules to the letter or offer your own scheme with simpler rules or enhanced entitlements.
  3. Look out for the Acas flexible working code and additional regulations – I’ll keep you updated on these.
  4. Draft your new or revised policies and inform your staff and managers of the additional rights and how they work. HR Adviser’s April Special Issue (due out on 20 March) will be on the employment law changes coming into force in 2024, so you can use this to help you.


Emma Lampka, Editorial Board Member, Health & Safety Adviser and Risk Assessment & Compliance


Make Your Employees’ Christmas a Safe and Merry One

According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), 80,000 people head to hospital each year due to injuries during the festive holiday period. The 4 most common incidents that occur over Christmas are slips, trips and falls, kitchen mishaps, fires and electrical and unsafe toys. To keep yourselves and your workforce safe during the Christmas period, share these top tips with your staff before they head off for their holiday.

  1. Slips, Trips and Falls

 According to a survey by the National Accident Helpline, one in 50 people have fallen out of their loft while bringing down Christmas decorations and the Health and Safety Executive has reported up to 2.6 million people falling from stools or stepladders when hanging their festive lights!

 Safety steps to take:

Make sure you’re standing on a sturdy ladder – not a chair or stool – when hanging decorations or lights.

  • Whether inside or out, ensure you’re on even or solid ground and, where possible, have someone hold the ladder and watch out for you.
  • If you need to get things down from the loft, make sure you have someone supervising at the bottom of the ladder to help you.
  • Avoid leaving piles of wrapping, trailing wires, greasy spills or presents lying around the floor where people might slip on them.


    2. Kitchen Mishaps

Often, the family all want to be together and while chefs are in the kitchen preparing the family feast, there could possibly be more people than usual in the kitchen, increasing the risk of an accident.

 Safety steps to take: 

  • Keep children out of the kitchen.
  • Use the back hobs if possible.
  • Turn saucepan handles inwards.
  • Take extra care when removing trays from the oven.
  • To avoid the dangers of uncooked meat, use a meat thermometer to take out the guesswork.

    3. Fires and Electrics 

Fires in the home are more common around Christmas time. Whilst they add to the festive atmosphere, having multiple candles lit around the house, a log fire going, or many electrical wires competing for socket space can all pose a fire hazard. 

Safety steps to take: 

  • Keep Christmas cards and decorations away from heaters and fires.
  • Never leaving candles unattended.
  • Do not overload the plug sockets and avoid daisy chaining extension leads.
  • Never leave Christmas lights on overnight and ensure they come from a good supplier.
  • Crucially, check you have a safe and functioning smoke alarm and know where to place the smoke alarms in your house.


    4. Unsafe Toys 

Unfortunately, some well-intentioned presents could have hidden risks. Many of them can include small plastic pieces or parts that could break off and present a choking hazard and some may have magnets that could cause internal damage if swallowed.

 Safety steps to take:

  • Check the price. If it’s much cheaper than similar products, this could indicate poor quality.
  • Check that the instructions and warning labels are not missing.
  • Check for small parts that could cause a choking hazard.
  • Ensure that battery compartments are lockable.


    Sarah Bradford, Editor-in-Chief, Pay & Benefits Adviser

    Get Ready for the NIC Rate Reduction from 6 January 2024

    In a surprise giveaway, the Chancellor announced in his 2023 Autumn Statement speech that the main rate of primary Class 1 National Insurance contributions payable by employees is to fall from 12% to 10% with effect from 6 January 2024. Employers will need to update their payrolls prior to making payments to employees on or after that date to ensure that their National Insurance contributions are calculated correctly.

    Primary Class 1 National Insurance Contributions

    Employees pay primary Class 1 National Insurance contributions on their earnings to the extent that they exceed the primary threshold, set at £242 per week, £1,048 per month and £12,570 per year.

    Contributions are payable at the main primary rate on earnings between the primary threshold and the upper earnings limit (set at £967 per week, £4,189 per month and £50,270 per year) and at the additional primary rate on earnings in excess of the upper earnings limit. Employees whose earnings are between the lower earnings limit (set at £123 per week, £533 per month and £6,396 per year) do not pay any primary contributions but are treated as having paid contributions at a zero rate, giving them a qualifying year for state pension purposes.

    The main primary rate is set at 12% from 6 April 2023 to 5 January 2024 and at 10% from 6 January 2024 onwards. The additional primary rate is set at 2% throughout 2023/24.

    The rate cut will reduce the primary contributions payable by an employee by up to £62.82 a month.

    Special Rules for Directors

    Directors have an annual earnings period regardless of their actual pay frequency and their National Insurance liability is calculated by reference to the annual thresholds using an annual rate.

    As a result of the fall in the main primary rate from 6 January 2024, a composite annual primary rate of 11.5% applies to directors for the 2023/24 tax year. Where contributions are calculated on a cumulative basis using the annual thresholds, the composite primary rate of 11.5% should be used for payments made on or after 6 January 2024.

    Where the alternative arrangements are used, for payments other than the final payment in the 2023/24 tax year, contributions are calculated using the primary rate prevailing at the time that the payment is made (i.e. 12% from 6 April 2023 to 5 January 2024 and 10% from 6 January 2024).

    However, the composite annual primary rate of 11.5% is used for the annual recalculation when the director is paid for the final time in the 2023/24 tax year. The annual additional rate is 2%.

    Software Updates

    To ensure that employees pay National Insurance at the right rates, you should ensure that you update your payroll software before making month 10 payments to employees.

    If you are unable to update your payroll before making payments to employees on or after 6 January 2024, you will need to run your payroll retrospectively once it has been updated for past periods where the wrong primary rate has been applied, so that refunds are given to employees where necessary.