Comprehensive Guide to Probation Periods in Employment

employe training, probation period, new employee

This guide provides new employees with everything they need to know about the probation period, including what to expect and how long probation periods normally last.

What is a probation period?

A probationary period is a specified amount of time an employee is evaluated to determine if they are suitable for continued employment. If an employee cannot meet the expectations of the role during the probationary period, they may be terminated from their position.

Probationary periods are typically used for new employees. Still, they may also be used for employees returning to a company after a period of absence, such as after a leave of absence. Probationary periods may also be used for employees being promoted to a new position.

The length of a probationary period will vary depending on the company and the position. For example, a company may have a 6-month probationary period for all new employees but a 12-month probationary period for employees who are promoted to management positions.

Why are probationary periods important?

The probationary period is an extension of the recruitment process. It allows you to evaluate a new starter's work over an established period and determine whether they are suitable for the role.

In determining whether an employee will succeed on probation, it is important to consider their performance, skills, ability, attendance, and general behaviour. The risk of not offering a probationary period is that you will be stuck with an employee who cannot meet the expectations of the position.

In addition, probationary periods allow employees to decide whether they would like to work for your company. Furthermore, unhappy employees are less motivated and enthusiastic, negatively impacting their performance and productivity (not only for themselves but also for their colleagues).

What should you expect during your probation period?

Student girl with trainer working on computer and tablet-1You may be asked to complete tasks in your employee's probation period that you might have yet to be asked to do in your previous job.

You will require a variety of tasks and duties of you. It includes the following:

  • Regularly scheduled meetings with your supervisor;
  • Reviewing job descriptions, job requirements and organizational charts;
  • Participating in training activities;
  • Observing work processes and procedures;
  • Approving time sheets; and/or
  • Other duties as assigned by the supervisor.

Probationary period employees right

Probation on employees has fewer statutory employment rights than one who has passed probation and is still within the first two years of employment.

Hence, they are entitled to a national minimum wage, time off in accordance with the Working Time Directive, and statutory sick pay. In addition, they are entitled to statutory notice of their employment termination.

Additionally, they have a right to protection against unfair dismissals and unlawful discrimination. Thus, it is essential to remember to dismiss a probationary employee. There must be allegations that the dismissal is fair and non-discriminatory.

To ensure that an employee on probation with a disability is not unlawfully discriminated against because of that disability, reasonable adjustments must also be made for them.

Related: Discrimination in the Workplace: Best Preventative Practices 

Generally, probationary employees have the same statutory rights as employees on probation. Still, employers often reserve certain (non-statutory) benefits, such as enhanced sick pay, until after the probation period is complete.

Do you have to give notice during the probation period?

The probation period requires both the employer and employee to give notice in accordance with the employment contract.

There must be at least one week's notice following the first month of employment, which is the minimum statutory notice period.

The probation period begins during the first month, so if your contract specifies otherwise, you don't need to give notice.

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How long do probation periods normally last?

The probation period generally lasts between 3 and 12 months, although it can last as little as a week in some short-term employment contracts. Typically, 6-month periods are used in the workplace.

Legally, probationary periods cannot be unreasonable in length. Performance reviews are common during this period. This allows the employee and employer to discuss concerns and examine how to make the transition to the new role easier. The probation period often addresses problems by providing additional training and support. It does not mean that formal reviews must be conducted regularly.

What does the law state about employee rights during probation?

A new employee's statutory rights begin on the first day of employment, regardless of their probationary period. If you are employed during this period, your employment contract may be less favourable than after it has ended. A probationary period may result in different employment terms, such as:

  • Employers and employees should have shorter notice periods.
  • Benefits such as bonuses and pensions available to other contract employees are limited.
  • If death-in-service benefits are available, they are not entitled to receive them.

The employee's general statutory employment rights under UK law, which include the following, must not be infringed upon by any less favourable terms.

  • In addition to the national minimum wage, workers have a right to be paid more than that amount.
  • Receiving holiday pay and accruing holiday time.
  • It is a right to receive periodic itemized pay statements.
  • Work time regulation enforcement.
  • Protecting from workplace discrimination.

Workers can still bring unfair dismissal claims during any probation period, although in fewer circumstances.

Terminating an employee's contract

It is essential to keep two key steps in mind when dismissing an employee on probation:

Offer the appropriate notice.

It is critical to give an employee on probation the appropriate notice before terminating their employment. In alternative cases, you may want to terminate the employee's employment simultaneously with the meeting, in which case you would pay them their notice.

Ideally, this should follow the contractual notice period specified in the new employment contract for the probationary period.

The contractual notice must be at most the statutory notice period if the person has worked for a company for more than one month. This is because the company must provide a minimum of one week of notice before termination.

Offer an appealing opportunity.

While it's not a legal requirement, giving the employee a chance to appeal is recommended since it might show that they're planning on filing a discrimination claim.

Hopefully, you'll have no trouble resolving any disputes internally and avoiding the employment tribunal.

Managing employees during their probation

barista-at-a-coffee-shop-showing-the-till-to-a-new-2021-08-26-16-13-06-utc_50Even the best people can succeed with good management and the right support. Therefore, you must take steps to get the best sense of a person's abilities.

Use a well-thought-out induction plan.

Your induction will familiarise new employees with the organization's processes, goals, and behavioural norms.

Be clear on your expectations.

The employee should be aware of what you expect of them early on so that they can understand what is expected of them.

Set simple targets

The purpose of setting targets is to provide you with a benchmark against which to gauge your performance. However, make sure they are attainable. It will take time for employees to understand how your business works.

Keep track of employee performance every week.

A weekly review of the employee's performance is helpful, especially during the first month. In addition to providing you with documented evidence of any issues, you may see appearing, writing down your thoughts will also aid you in identifying future problems.

Regularly meet with the employee.

Monitor your new employees' performance regularly and ensure they meet your expectations. Your employee should receive an email summarizing your meeting after each meeting to ensure they understand the expectations.

Early communication of concerns

When an employee fails to meet expectations, you should communicate this to them as soon as possible, even if it feels difficult. Therefore, if they choose to make a change, they will have a better chance of success.

Keep notes

You must keep track of the progress you are making and the concerns you have during and after the probationary period.

Should you give notice during your probation period?

Firstly, it is important to distinguish contractual from statutory notices. The employee must comply with a probationary period notice policy specified in their employment contract. Your employee must comply with statutory notice requirements if your contract does not specify a notice period.

In the same way, you can terminate an employee's probationary period if you choose. This policy will apply if an employee has been away from your company for one month or more. A notice of termination is not required in this situation (unless their contract specifies otherwise).

Can I dismiss an employee during their probation period?

In case of failure to meet expectations, you have the right to dismiss an employee during their probationary period. However, you should ensure that you raise any concerns and provide appropriate support before doing so. You can discuss this during your formal probation review meeting. Maintain records of all correspondence and ensure you are not construing unfair dismissal as the reason for terminating an employee's contract.

Is there a technology solution that can help employers with probation?

The answer is yes. Several HR software tools available today can help you manage probation periods for your staff. As a result, managers are regularly reminded when to conduct review meetings, store performance data about new employees, track attendance, and track other metrics to determine if a new employee will be able to pass their probationary period.

Topic: Period
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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