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HR Case File: When Should I Extend a Probation Period?

You’re not completely happy with the performance of a new employee whose probation period ends soon - what’s the best approach to take? No one said dealing with HR issues would be easy…

Thankfully, FPM’s HR expert Lisa Wainwright is here to help. The latest in our series of handy case studies explains what actions to take if you find yourself in this situation.


In this case, you have three options open to you:

  • Do nothing and allow them to pass their probation.
  • Extend their probation period to give them more time to make (and sustain) any necessary improvements.
  • Dismiss them from the role.

Once a new member of staff starts with you, you should meet with them periodically throughout their probationary period to review how they are doing so far, answer any questions about their role, and find out if they have any additional training needs. You can also review any reasonable adjustments that have been put in place and so on.

This process should be clear and transparent, with notes taken and copies provided to the employee. I’d recommend doing this weekly or fortnightly for the first month and then every four weeks after that.

If your new employee is not performing as effectively as expected in their role, it’s never advisable to do nothing and simply allow the probation period to lapse. This will only create further issues down the line and could easily lead to greater costs – in terms of both time and money.

It may be that some improvements are still needed towards the end of the probation period, but overall they are making good progress. In this case you may choose to extend their probation to give them more time to improve and sustain that improvement. Three to six months would normally be enough time to measure this. Again, continue to meet and review their progress and provide any necessary support throughout this time.

If things do not progress as expected and additional training and support does not deliver the necessary improvements, you can:

  • Invite the employee to a probation review hearing
  • Review the evidence and the support that has been put in place for them
  • Make the decision of dismiss them if you feel there is no likelihood of them making or sustaining an acceptable level of improvement.

Although the minimum length of service for a claim for unfair dismissal is two years, if the claim features discrimination then the two years does not apply. For this reason you need to be mindful of making sure that you make any reasonable adjustments for anyone covered by the Equality Act.

Any meeting that may result in a dismissal is a formal meeting and as such the employee should be invited to the meeting in writing and be given the opportunity to be accompanied by a colleague or union rep. FPM member can find a sample letter to an employee as part of our comprehensive library of policies and templates, as well as a series of other documents to help you manage the probation process.

Are you dealing with a tricky HR issue? First Practice Management members can contact Lisa for support with their queries via our email helpline at hrhelp@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk


Comments

Lisa Wainwright 15/02/2018

Thanks for your query. Have you asked her why she is refusing to wear less perfume? It would be a key question to understand what's going on. Ultimately, you have a responsibility to the general wellbeing of the rest of your staff and so does she. If her perfume is the a factor influencing the headaches and migraines of the team it won't make for a positive working environment and may start to impact levels of sickness. Probation extensions should only be granted in exceptional circumstances, for example where you believe someone will be able to do the role but needs a bit more time, which does not seem to be the case here. You have made a reasonable request of this lady to tone down her perfume or use alternative products and she has chosen not to do this. This is a behavioural issue. How are the rest of her behaviours and her relationships with colleagues? Does she follow instructions or simply do own thing? Do you want to be managing such behaviour on an on going basis? I'd recommend sitting down with her and setting your expectations going forward. If you have a code of conduct or similar you can refer to this about regard for others, etc. Explain she is a valued member of the team and her work is good but her current behaviour and attitude can not continue as they are having a negative effect on the rest of the team. You can also refer to any behavioural competencies you may have used in the recruitment process. You can explain to her that unless this improves, you will be considering ending her contract. Please email the advice line if you would like to discuss the specifics of the case.

Anonymous 14/02/2018

Hi I have a tricky one here. I have no problems with the work that a new lady is doing, however some of the staff have experienced regular headaches due this ladys strong strong strong perfume! She has been asked numerous times to tone it down but has not done so yet. One member of staff is prone to migraines and has suffered one most weeks since this lady started. As she has not heeded advice, a formal letter was sent to her asking her to use fragrance free products. She was very upset and said we were trying to get rid of her. As I said, no problems with her work, but I need to keep the others in good health. If I extend her probation, is she going to kick off again or even worse, if I give her notice before probation, where do I stand? Thanks


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