Everything You Need to Know about Probationary Periods

With so many new appointments now being subject to the successful completion of a probationary period and so many questions coming into the First Practice Management advice line asking how to safely dismiss someone on a probationary period I felt that some guidance on probationary periods would be helpful.

There is substantial evidence to suggest that probationary periods increase the probability that new employees will succeed in their new roles. The purpose of a probationary period is to allow a specific time period for the employee and employer to assess suitability of the role after having firsthand 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 gives the new employee the opportunity to see whether they like their new job and surroundings.

Length of probationary period

There is no law determining the length of a probationary period. However, there is an expectation that the employer will be reasonable. It is typical for a probationary period to last no longer than six months, and three months where an employee is moving to a new post internally.

The probationary period

At the start of the probationary period the manager should discuss the following with the new employee:-

  • 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.

  • The standards of customer service 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 structure the process so both parties are clear about expectations. The probationary period should commence with the manager reinforcing the core values of the organisation with the new employee.

Training and support

The manager should 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.

Review during the probationary period

During the probationary period a series of formal review meetings should take place between the new employee and their manager. For example:-

  • Week 4
  • Week 12
  • Week 26

Prior to the meeting the manager should draft some notes to help discussions during the meeting. The manager should keep full, clear records and documentation of meetings, throughout the probationary process ensuring all documentation is signed off by both the employee and the manager with a copy being given to the employee.

When an employee on probation is experiencing difficulties

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 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. At any review meeting with the employee where there are issues to be addressed, the following approach needs to be considered.

  • Reinforce the areas where the employee is doing well.

  • Be open and honest with the employee about his/her short comings. Provide documentary evidence whenever possible.

  • Give the employee the opportunity to respond. There might be some other factor behind the problem.

  • Try to reach an agreement on the nature of the problem. If joint agreement can be reached the employee is more likely to react positively to any suggestion for improvement.

  • Offer guidance and support on how to overcome the difficulties. This might include extra training/coaching or closer supervision.

  • Ensure the employee understands the degree of progress required and that successful completion of the probationary period dependent on it.

  • Warn the employee that if this standard in not reached it will be necessary to terminate his/her employment.

  • In the case of misconduct, short of gross misconduct (for which summary dismissal will be appropriate) warn the employee that any further misconduct will lead to immediate termination or his/her employment.

Successful outcome of probationary period

If the employee’s probationary period is satisfactory the manager should inform the employee at the final meeting that their appointment will be confirmed and a successful outcome will be sent to confirm this.

Extending the probationary period

The purpose of extending a probationary period is to allow the employee further time to improve his/her performance in order to demonstrate competence in the full range of duties and required behaviours.

If a probationer’s performance is unsatisfactory in some areas but the managers feel that further training and support may bring the employee up to the required standard, an extension (on a month-by-month basis) can be considered. This could also be appropriate in cases where the employee or the manager has been absent from the workplace for an extended period during probation due to circumstances beyond the employee’s control.

An extension should normally be granted only where there are special circumstances justifying such a course and can only be made before the end of the original probationary period.

Extensions can be granted for a maximum of two further months, to cumulate in a maximum of eight months’ probation.

Where it is agreed that employee’s period of probation will be extended, it is important for the manager to set out the terms of extension in writing. It is important to state clearly:-

  • The length of the extension and the date on which the extended period will end.

  • The reason for the extension – for example that the employee’s performance has fallen short of certain standards, but that the manager reasonably believes that an extension of time will be effective in allowing the employee to achieve these standards.

  • The performance standards or objective that the employee is required to achieve by the end of the extended period of probation.

  • Any support such as further training that will be provided during the extension.

  • That if the employee does not meet fully the required standards, by the end of the extended period of probation, his/her employment will be terminated.

It is not advisable to make extending probationary periods the norm. An extension should be agreed only if there are special factors that justify it.

Termination of contract

In order to give an employee a full opportunity to meet the required standards the manager will usually wait until the end of the probationary period before taking any decision to terminate employment.

Where a decision to terminate the probationer’s contract has been made, the manager will meet with the employee, having given him/her at least five days notice in writing. The employee may be represented by a trade union representative or work colleague. The manager will set out clearly the reasons why the employee has not successfully completed the probationary period and will give the employee the opportunity to present his/her case including any mitigating circumstances.

Most policies or contracts of employment state the full disciplinary procedure is not usually considered appropriate for employees working within the probationary period.

Whilst an employee cannot claim unfair dismissal in the first year of service, which has now been increased to a two years qualifying period for employees starting on or after 6 April 2012, 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.  Wrongful dismissal occurs when an employer dismisses an employee in breach of the employer's contractual or statutory obligations, for example by failing to follow a contractual disciplinary / dismissal procedure or failure to give contractual notice. Employers can be required to pay damages for wrongful dismissal if taken to an employment tribunal. It is also worth highlighting to you that, if the individual has a protected characteristic as per the Equality Act (for example is disabled) then there is a potential risk that they could make a claim in regards to discrimination and this is something that you should bear in mind when making decisions.

Please note the above guidance is of a general nature. It is important that practices ensure policy guidelines and contractual obligations are followed.

In addition to the above FPM members can obtain further information via the FPM website. Alternatively members can also email specific questions about employment issues to advice@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk where your question will be treated in confidence and will normally be answered (by email) within 2 working days of submission.

Information from ACAS, Personnel Today and the CIPD website has been used within this article.

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Comments

shagufta 25/10/2018

hi .. jus about to join in a new firm they posted me with the job contract which says 2-6 months of probation , and they promised me a gross salary amount , but in the contract they say 10% of the salary will be deducted and given in terms of incentive at the time of termination / or when i leave the job .however this 10% deduction is my gross salary part , also they don"t show up with any PF ACCOUNT. can u help . is it ok to deduct during the probation . when i have still not been the permanent employee. thanks in advance

First Practice Management 28/11/2017

Hi Felix, I'm sorry we are unable to help with your query. Please contact ACAS - http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1461 And they should be able to assist. Thank you, Kind Regards, First Practice Management

Felix Oirere Ouru 27/11/2017

Am working with Security Solution company in Bahrain.During my arrival at the office,,,, they took me trough the writings about the company.There was a probation that was between 3- 6 months.for now I have finished 6 months.now this company have been deducting my salary due to my weaknesses of working with them....actually on the first day I arrived at their office,they explained for me that if I will find the job is unsuitable for me, i will pay some amount then I will quit to another company.so far this company has long working hours with less salary that cannot sustain you in the country.Other companies have good working hours I.e 8 hours according to the law.i asked them to terminate me from the company.but now what is funny, they told me to pay some amount of money then after that payment,they told me that I will go back to my country.Do they want to do this according to the law?

Derrick 30/06/2017

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Stephen Gallagher 03/04/2017

I have recently been dissmissed from work after 9 months of a 12 month probationary period. They waited till i had done a full days shift till 8pm before telling me at 8:30pm that i was finished. I recieved no notice period as is stated in my contract of one week. As i am not great on employment law i wondered if someone could clarify this please.

michael 03/04/2017

Hi ... can anyone help me please ... I am on a 3 months probation time but my boss keeps on extending it with 3 months ... ive been working here for 9 months now ... CAN he extend it again ??

Ryan Davey 17/03/2017

Hello. I've just been offered a job which I start on the 25th March with a probation for 8-12 weeks. I have another job interview on the 23th March which I am hoping to get as it's closer and the pay is more (although less hours) I was wondering what to do in this situation, as I can't guaranty I'll get the desired job, but if it is offered to me on the day, or a week later how do I come across it?

Del 03/03/2017

Im on 6 weeks probation and I haven't been given a contract to read through nor have the terms of my emloyment have been fully discussed i.e terms of my probation, holidays, sick days, termination of contract etc.

Doreen innes 21/02/2017

I have been on probation that ends on the 23rd Feb I started on the 1st Dec. I have had 3 days off 1 on the 5th Jan 1 day I was sent to hospital ( was off all day having tests) Yesterday I returned to hospital for more tests and was there all day again. I was told today that because I had been off twice I had triggered the absence policy so had to have a probation review. Iv been told this will be just extended how ever I was at holiday one day for tests that didn't trigger but then when I had hospital letters and confirmation of a new illness it's now triggered I'm confused how both days are not treated the same why I wasn't offered a holiday and how my probation can be extended when it's not due to error in my work I have to have more tests that will be with in this extension so fail to see how a four week extend can cover 2/3 days out of the business

steve 09/02/2017

I've just been made redundant from a job I put so much effort into for 2 years...........And yet a member of staff who started in mid December has managed to keep his job.........He took 3 days off for a funeral........A day sick with shoulder pain due to playing Rugby..........And on another occasion went home using the same excuse..........He is still on probation..........All the other staff say he's useless and lazy.............Can he not be sacked before his 3 months probation period is up ?

P 13/01/2017

I have been working for a company for 3 months now, in my contract it says 6 months probation. I've only had one review meeting in the last 3 months and it was sprung on me, the same with every meeting so far. ( as in pulled into office there and then ) They have also decided to ignore my contract that says 6 months probation and are now doing my final probation meeting at the end of Jan. when questioned i was told. " I agreed to it" and " cause that's what we're doing." can they do this ?

james 02/01/2017

I started work at a new company in May 2016 and in my contract it stated that I would be on a 6 month probation period, with a review at 3 months and 6 months respectively. I have been with the company now for just over 8 months and have had no reviews, no meetings, no induction and no structured training, nothing, I feel like I'm a little bit in limbo and get a slight incline that when the company goes through its seasonal quiet time I may be let go, can they do this?

Natalie neal 31/12/2016

Hi I've been working at a coffee shop for 3 months. I wasn't told about a 3 month period off the boss but heard from other employees. ..I was messed about with hours straight away with the boss not sticking to what she said would work in the interview ..but worked round what she then said would work for her...I haven't had any meetings with the boss to discuss how things were going ..then yesterday I received a message through Facebook messenger to say my 12 week period was up and due to my flexibility she would not be keeping me on ..can she do this without a correct meeting to discuss any problems she had with my work..is there anything I can do and am I entitled to any holiday pay for the 3 month I was there. .

DARYL BALLARD 19/11/2016

If I have been working for the County Government for 2-3 years, and I apply for a higher position and get it, is it legal for them to put me back on a 6 month probationary period?

Danielle 19/09/2016

Hi, This has really been bugging me recently so I started work in a shop as a stock assistant doing facing last week and they have shift hours only having contracts for 20 hours and the hours have been stressing me out due to them being evenings as originally I didn't think I was going to do them as though I was going to do a few full days but instead I'm doing 5 days of 4 hours 2-6pm but got asked to do a full day and enjoyed it alot more then what i'm doing now . and i'm terrified of asking due being on my 3 months probation due to anxiety BUT would they fire me for wanting to change my hours? thank you.

Amar 08/05/2016

Hi , I started my job in 13th Aug 2015 with 3 months probation periods at Maldives Resort. After 3 months had review but my manager said that i m not meet their expectation and i am silent employee means i am not talking more for this reason they extend my probation periods for further 1 months after that got again 1 month extention means in march 2016 they had meeting with me and said me that you are I didn´t meet their expectation and for that reason they said me i have 2 option first is to go back at home and the second one is get demotion and work here , so i choose to getting demotion and continue my work . now before some days I got confirmation letter from HR which is dated 28 th april 2016 and mention my old designation. After some days i heard like this they are thinking to send me back at home , so i am confused what should i have to do , i can can not understand i am confirm or not and i cna not ask my manager and HR as well as . So pls give me advice on this matter as soon as possible

Sam 10/04/2016

Hi, My new employment contract does not mention a probationary period anywhere at all. It is meant to be a full time permanent role. It does mention working hours, place of work and also notice period of one month by either party to terminate the contract. It also mentions that I will be included in the company's benefits inc healthcare, insurance and pensions etc. But not probationary period. Should I be concerned? I am being told my friends that this is a good thing, and the company is a well known firm and hard to get into, so I shouldn't have any worries. However, I have never come across any contracts without probationary period. Any input will be much appreciated.

Toni Arundale 15/03/2016

Started employment May last year probationary period was for 6months I'm paid £6.70 per hour no notice of extending probationary period was given now today I've recieved a letter saying probation has now ended and I'm permanent staff which are paid £6.90 do they have to pay me the 20p as to date I've worked for the company for 10 months and nagged to be put on contracted hours for months!

Aisha 27/01/2016

Hi I started working for a company in July 2015, my 6-month probation is due to end his week, my boss has had monthly 121's with me and every time I've asked about how he thinks I'm performing, he's always said he thinks I'm picking up well. He's sent me a meeting request for Friday for my 6-month probation review, and invited the a member of HR along, should I be concerned?!? Is it normal to have a member of HR there, its a small company and has a small HR team, he's invited the HR Manager along, I'm freaking it a little. When I interviewed for the post I mentioned my lack of experience in the job but also mentioned that I wanted the opportunity to get into the field etc etc and they offered it to me as a junior post, and working with someone else, but we've been busy doing other work that's been thrown out way than concentrating on the actual post, should I be worried that this will come up, although I've always talked to him about t in my 121's and he's always been positive about my performance. Am I worrying for nothing?

micheala tebble 20/01/2016

Hi iv been in my job since last august over the last few weeks they have made me supervisor. I resived an email saying that my manager would like a 121 with me . Iv just resived a message saying that my 121 would be brought forward to this firday ... im worryed ... then an email saying to talk about my probation because she has been asked to .. should i be worried thanks

Beth Thomson 03/12/2015

During 3 month probation, no training, support or review. (Employer sees no need) No job description, workplace policies either. End of probation meeting called with no notice, letter from employer given to me describing what was addressed at the meeting BEFORE it took place. Requests from me for explanation of criticisms and reasons for not being kept on not answered. Employer refused to discuss, said decision was final. Do I have any rights at all?

Jane hever 01/12/2015

I started my probationary period ten weeks ago unfortunately I now have shingles and in a lot of pain my doctor wants to see me on Thursday and then will decide if I can return to work could I get sacked for this

Karen canny 22/09/2015

I started new job 3rd Aug 15 and wish to resign due to comprise my integrity and ethics, highlighting ongoing poor practice which is received negatively. My contract States in first 6 months of probation my employer has to give me one weeks notice however it states the employee must provide 12 weeks notice. Is this legal? What will happen if I need to resign with a maximum of one weeks notice or immediate effect due to conflicting values, behaviours and ethics

Joshua 11/09/2015

So I have been working at my new place now for a month. I recently was admitted to hospital for a pain in my side and was kept in and had scans. On returning to work there hadn't been a problem and before being taken on I told them of a holiday which had been booked for a week and they accepted and didn't mind this. On return of my holiday I had a letter through my door saying that I didn't meet the requirements they were looking for and I had a weeks notice which was from when I went on holiday, so my weeks notice was whilst I was away and now have no job! I work in medical care and my new job required me to do meds and I needed training however I had around two weeks of the 3 month training! Is there anything I can do?

Alexander 07/09/2015

I have had my probation period extend by one month until the 1st of September. This period has passed and I have had no formal letter stating that I have had it extend again or there is to be a meeting. I have read that if you pass your probation period without it being extend prior to the end of it then you have technically passed it, is this the case for me? I have had an email from my manager requesting a meeting but there isn't anything about it being about my probation, just the subject of the email being 'Review Meeting'.

richard smith 03/09/2015

completed my probationary work period then 2 weeks later my manager wants to extend it with lack of knowledge to my job..... did they miss their window to do this or do i have no leg to stand on?? the extension wasnt given on a formal basis as of yet either......

richard smith 03/09/2015

completed my probationary work period then 2 weeks later my manager wants to extend it with lack of knowledge to my job..... did they miss their window to do this or do i have no leg to stand on?? the extension wasnt given on a formal basis as of yet either......

Sam Cook, HR Advisor at FPM 29/06/2015

Employee notice periods are always 1 week unless stated otherwise in your contract. Most contracts have an increasing amount of notice based on service length but in probations it is most likely to be 1 week.

Delbels 28/06/2015

I have just had my 3 month probationary review and I no longer wish to continue my employment. What notice period do I need to give ?

John Green 11/05/2015

My contract state that the employer can terminate the employment with a month notice during 12 month probation period. However, it does not state my notice period should I chose to leave. Elsewhere, in contract there (3 year contract) it states 3 months for them 2 for me. So can I terminate the contract with 1 month notice in probation period or is it always 2 month for me?

Chloe 04/04/2015

Hi, My contract stated I have a 6 month probation period which can be extended by up to 3 months. I have been with the company for 9 months and have just been told I have not passed the probation period. Can they do this?

Sam Cook, HR Advisor at FPM 16/03/2015

Hi Neil, thanks for your comment - Citizens Advice or ACAS should be able to help you with any questions in this area. Here at FPM we work with GP Practices.

Neil walker 15/03/2015

I began working for a company in November 2014 with a 3 month probation period. I have still not signed a contract as I had questions over sick pay, my rights to work in the industry for 6 months should I leave and that I was not supplied any of the company policies that the contract stars I should read before signing. Nothing was said to me at the end of the three month however my wages increased as agreed, however a car allowance was promised and has not yet been paid. I there was also mention of company pension scheme. I have e mailed the MD about this but have had no reply. My probation was up at the end of January however I have today received a letter stating my wage increase and also that my probation has been extended for 4 months to allow for extra training! This doesn't seem right to me can anyone offer some advice? Thanks Neil

Sam Cook - HR Adviser, FPM 09/03/2015

Hi Marco, thanks for the comment. We are a service for GP Partners and Practice Managers but if you have concerns about the way you left an organisation, you could seek advice from ACAS or Citizens Advice. Please note that employee who have not worked for 2 years or more at an organisation do not have the full set of employment rights normally afforded to employees.

Marco Ordonez Rola 07/03/2015

Hi, I started working for my company in October 2014 with 10 months of probation period , I had since october just 1 review. On 06/03/2015 my manager ask to go to the crew room to say that I didn´t meet their expectation and for thar reason I was dismissed from that moment. My manager send me home on that day saying that they will pay me the days that I had work plus one week of notice. I didn´t have any written notice or the chance to defend my self! What Can I do? Is this legal?


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