Probationary Periods

male and female in probationary periods review

Probationary Period

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male and female in probationary periods review

Probationary Period

It is important that the new employee understands what is expected of them during their probationary period from the beginning of their employment, therefore the manager should discuss the following with them within their first week:

  • What the employee is expected to achieve in their job during the probationary period and thereafter.
  • Details of the core values of the organisation and behaviours expected of the employee.
  • The standards of regular attendance expected from the employee.
  • Any development required to help the employee to do their job.
  • How any problems with performance will be addressed.
  • When the probationary period review meetings will take place.

The manager should also set out details of structured training, guidance, and supervisory support the new employee can expect to help them achieve the required standards.  The manager should explain the mechanism for identifying and discussing any problem areas at the earliest opportunity, together with the provision of regular constructive two-way feedback.

During the probationary period a series of formal probationary review meetings should take place between the new employee and their manager to discuss:

  • areas of strength
  • areas where improvement is necessary 
  • any training required to enable the employee to improve 
  • whether or not the employee is achieving the expected standard 
  • Warn the employee that if this standard is not reached it will be necessary to terminate his/her employment.

The manager should always keep full, clear records and documentation of probationary period meetings throughout the probationary process.

If the employee is experiencing problems at any stage during his/her probationary period, the manager should discuss these with the employee and not wait until the next scheduled probationary period review meeting. The primary purpose is to bring about a sustained improvement in performance and to ensure that the employee has had sufficient opportunities to achieve this. 

Dismissal following a probationary period  

If the expected performance standard is not being achieved by the employee, even after significant opportunities have been given alongside a development plan, the company may decide to consider the possibility of terminating the contract due to unsatisfactory progress/behaviour during the probationary period

Most policies or contracts of employment state the full disciplinary procedure is not usually considered appropriate for employees working within the probationary period, and whilst an employee cannot claim unfair dismissal in the first year of service. If you dismiss someone without going through a fair dismissal process an employee can claim wrongful dismissal, for which there is no length of service requirement.

Download your FREE guide on how to manage a dismissal during probationary periods.

For example; if the individual has a protected characteristic such as being disabled then there is a potential risk that they could make a claim regarding discrimination in the workplace.

As such the following procedure should be followed:

  1. Write to the employee to invite them into a probationary period review meeting, outlining the issues and advising that termination is being considered.
  2. Give the employee the right to be accompanied by a colleague or an accredited trade union representative.
  3. At the meeting give the employee the opportunity to respond to the issues put forward.
  4. Make a decision on the outcome, i.e. terminate the contract or extend the probationary period (assuming the contract of employment allows for this). 
  5. Notify the employee of the outcome of the probationary period review in writing. 
  6. If the decision was to terminate the contract, offer the employee the right to appeal within five working days. 

Probationary period reviews should be handled consistently by all managers, and therefore it is recommended that all managers should receive training on how to manage probation for new employees.  Furthermore, the probationary period should be stated in the employment terms and conditions.

What is a Probationary period?

A probationary period is a clause for new employees joining a company, helping both the employee and employer asset if they fit the role correctly.

During the probationary period, employees can be excused from some contractual rights, such as company or employee benefits. Some workplaces require employees to pass their probationary periods before agreeing to hybrid work arrangements.

Recruitment campaigns can be highly time-consuming and costly for businesses, and utilising probationary periods to benefit the business is critical.

There are 3 key aims for probationary periods to establish;

  1. If the new employee is a good fit for the role including their performance, skills, and overall conduct in the workplace
  2. How well the new employee works with team members
  3. How the new employee fits within the company

Probationary period reviews give companies a clear framework for assessing the capabilities, reliability, and, suitability of the new employee, and there is substantial evidence to suggest that a probationary period will increase the probability that new employees will succeed in their new roles. 

The rights of employees during their probationary period (employment law during the probationary period)

Whilst new employees do not have rights against company-specific benefits, some laws are day-one rights and must be followed according to employment law, including;

  • At least the national minimum wage or living wage
  • Itemised pay slips
  • Paid holiday entitlement – beginning from day one
  • Maximum working hours and minimum breaks
  • Maternity leave
  • Time off for ante-natal appointments

Extending an employee’s probationary period

Businesses have the right to extend the probationary period, as long as they provide valid and fair reasons for doing so. If you are considering extending a probationary period, speak with our HR consultants who will be able to assist you with the correct process for extending the probationary period and the necessary communication needed between you and the employee.

Why have a Probationary Period?

The purpose of a probationary period is to allow a specific time period for the employee and employer to assess the suitability of the role after having first-hand experience. On the one hand, it gives the employer opportunity to assess objectively whether the new employee is suitable for the job taking into account their capability, skills, performance, attendance, and general conduct. 

On the other hand, it allows the new employee to see whether they like their new job and surroundings, which can’t be fully established during the recruitment process. 

How long is the probationary period?

There is no employment law determining the length of a probationary period. However, there is an expectation that the employer will be reasonable. A probationary period can last anything from three months to a year, but typically it is six months. The time period can depend on the seniority of the role or contract length.

The employer can also reserve the right to extend the probationary period should the need arise by stipulating it in the contract of employment, however, this should not be the norm and should only be agreed upon if there are special factors that justify it.

No matter how long the company decides the probationary period should be, it must be communicated to the employee at the outset of their employment.

How our HR consultants can help your business with Probationary reviews

Our HR consultants can assist your business through probationary periods and the dismisaal process if an employee is not meeting the expected performance. By utilising our outsourced HR service, you will receive unlimited calls and email support through the full process, allowing you hours of communication and HR support.

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