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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


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