Probationary Periods - A Guidance to 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 periods

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 periods

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 periods

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 First Practice Management members can obtain further information via the First Practice Management website. Alternatively members can also email specific questions about employment issues to where your question will be treated in confidence and will normally be answered (by email) within 2 working days of submission.

Advice can only be issued to FPM members so comments asking for advice left below will be ignored unless left by a member.

  • 1



Thanks for the article, it was very helpful.

Natalie 23/03/2017

Today I have been "let go" from my employment during my probabionary period. They decided they no longer needed me. Which makes me wonder if that is wrongful dismissal. I had no prior warning.

K 21/03/2017

I've been recently let go from my place of employment. My probation was 3 months but at no point did my employer say/write to inform me that he was extending my probationary period. Maybe in his head he extended my probation - I don't know. What I do know is I have nothing from him. All he did was sit me down on Friday morning and let me go with a week's notice. What are my rights especially since he did not formally inform me that my probationary period was being extended?

Gary 01/03/2017

Hi I had an appraisal/end of probation period review booked but 1 week before the meeting it was brought forward and at that meeting I was informed that there had been some feedback from 3 colleagues in a joint appraisal form raising concerns over my suitability and performance. Some of the claim are factually incorrect and not recognised by myself or other colleagues. I have been at the company for 6 months, no targets, objectives or regular review where set up or requested. 1 week before my probation period was up this issue arose whilst I was on Holiday. I have been working with these colleagues every day for 6 months without any feedback on any issues they may have. Equally as part of my preparation for the end of probation review I got two independent appraisal feedback review from other colleagues who I have been working with in the same team for the same period. This independent feedback was a glowing and very complimentary report which contradicted the joint report. Regardless of this the manager has sided with the joint report and has extended my probation period but only to give me the time to seek other opportunities within a different division of the company. I have not yet been dismissed at this time but the manager did say that if another role can be found they were not sure where we would go from their. Which I took to mean terminating my employment. Where do I stand and do I have any rights to what appears to be a one sided, planned and unfair sequence of events.

Sarah Owen 07/02/2017

Hello - Please can you help. I started a new job on the 3rd October 2016 on a 3 month probationary period which was due to finish the 4th January 2017. During this time I have had no reviews/meetings, no objectives/targets set and any review meetings keep getting cancelled due to lack of manager availability. My contract also states that 3months on from my probationary period that subject to satisfactory completion of targets my salary will increase. With no sign off or targets set I am obviously concerned - please can you tell me where I stand as there has been no complaints about my work or lack of ability to deliver within my role. I am obviously concerned as the company can terminate my employment with a weeks notice thanks Sarah

Angela 06/02/2017

A colleague of mine who started in August has recently had their 'probation' extended, despite the fact that our contracted probationary period is only 3 months, meaning her probation should have ended in November. Management really took their time in getting any of my colleagues signed off but surely this cannot be legal as for all intents and purposes, her probation should already be over. Is there anything she can do and is there any way myself or my colleagues could support her with this matter as I do not feel that it is something to be tolerated. What can we do?

Jade Dudding, Online Marketing Assistant 06/02/2017

Hi Charlotte, get your relative to contact ACAS about this. Thanks Jade

Charlotte 04/02/2017

A close relative of mine had been unfairly dismissed three months after her probation period had ended. She has a signed contract and had no warning beforehand. The employer had no reason for dismissing her. Where does she go about this?

Cody 25/10/2016

Hi, my employer informed me earlier today that my probationary period is being extended due to my "inability" to perform my job. And out of my three months months of being here he has never once said anything about me not doing my job. In fact has not told me what I need to improve on, in the vaguest way told me "everyone needs to improve." Is there a possibility that he might be holding me back for some beneficial reason to him or the company? BTW I have been told by all other Co workers and assistant managers that I exceed expectation and take on "too many" responcibilitys that are not mine while still completing my job in a timely manner. I'm just really confused.

Carol Green 28/09/2016

Due to an accusation being made about me I was advised to leave my job as a teaching assistant....I was working for the school for 12mths when I signed a contract in the November 2015 for a permanent position however this contract only lasted till 28th Feb. 2016 so that meant I was only bound to the contract for 4mths, when I was called into the heads office they simply said to me that I was still on probation and it would be better if I left my job and nothing would jeopardise me ever getting a job working at a school again, on this advice I left, however I recently was due to sign a contract with another school and they have received a unsatisfactory reference from the previous employer, I am at my wits ends, I requested a copy of the reference, I received it from the school I recently applied for a job, it says quote....Carol was subject to a disciplinary procedure during her probationary period. This was never resolved as she resigned from the post. I feel so let down with this action as they said it wouldn't be an issue if I walked. Look forward to your reply. Thanks. Carol....

Lee 15/09/2016

Hi, I am on probation which ends on the 29/09/16. It is for 6 months,I have had no reviews or updates, is this right? Also, how much notice would the employer need to give if i fail my probation?

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Williammito 06/05/2016

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Charles Robertson 16/01/2016

Hello. I had successfully completed 4 months of my 6 month probationary period as a contractor [not an employee], when my contract was terminated without notice. My contract stated that I would be working remotely for the entire length of my probationary period. I was told that the reason for my contract ending, was because the company wanted only to use in-house employees from that point onwards. So, my contract was not terminated because I was in any way incompetent. The employer never carried out any probationary assessments during my time I was working for this company. Am I able to claim for the 40 days of paid work that was still outstanding on my contract? Thanks for your help.

jess 13/01/2016

I'm on a six month probation period at my workplace I have done four and a half months of it, I didn't go in work today due to missing the bus this morning. My manager has called me tonight to tell me that there is no need to go work tomorrow because she wants a meeting with me. I have a feeling that I will get dissmissed from work. Can she dissmisse me for this??

D Scott 08/01/2016

Hi, I have an employer who completed his probation of six months (3 month extended). He had 36 hrs a week contract. His performance is fair enough and want to give him permanent job with less hour say 20 hrs a week. Can I do it for him?

Chris 05/01/2016

I got sacked on the spot on the 4th of Jan on my probationary period for an incedent that happened at work Xmas party with a bouncer by my mouth no fighting and got thrown out the casino yet every one else caused 300 pound worth of damage and they still have their jobs and the GM was letting her 17 year old daughter drink couldn't believe it

eugene 24/11/2015

We have a member of staff who has had their probation period extended [here 8 months 6+1+1] and even with loads of support and encouragement is not performing at all -its sales and marketing post, we really wish this was not the case as she is a very nice person and gets on well with everybody. We have spoken a number of times regarding her position, had direct mentoring with an external and sent to courses etc, but nothing is happening. How long of notice do I have to give- a full months notice?

Sarah 22/11/2015

I am two months into my 3 month probation period, my employer knows I am registered disabiled for a illness that is not curable , called lupus. I take daily medication and once a year I need 2 infusion of rituximab to help get my condition back under control , as the condition starts to flare back up, I become un fit for work, my consultant has given me a 2 week sick note to see me through my treatment and able to get the rest needed to them return back to work after two weeks, the employer knows about the treatment I need once a year. But obviously this year it has fallen on a new job and still In probationary period , the illness is life threatening if I don't get the treatment and can not be put off until end of my probation, can they dismiss me or sack me? What are my rights? Am I protected through disibilty rights and the fact that after treatment I will be fit for work after the two weeks sick and protected through the sick note and being registered disabiled ? Please help I don't want to loose my job , for something completely out of my control . Thank you

Tracy 28/10/2015

I have my first probationary review in a few days, can I take a friend in with me from outside of the organisation?

Sam Cook, HR Advisor at FPM 02/10/2015

Hi Tracy, Have you considered contacting Access to Work? This is a great organisation that can support you and your employer. Failing that, ACAS can help with any employee concerns. Kind regards, Sam

tracy 02/10/2015

Hi I started my new role in july 2015 and I am dylexic and I am waiting for my package to come through to support my the meantime I am coping and working very hard.however my manager has concerns for me and said if this was my probation today I wouldn't have passed,which was upsetting. To add more pain to my wound ,my manage4 says it impacting on her work as she has to re proof my work.also questioned my quaflication asking how I passed which I though wad rude .I concerned I fail regards tracy

ToJ 22/09/2015

I was taken on in a sales office role in March this year, on a 6-month probationary period, which was progressing very well and my branch manager gave me very positive feedback and said at the 1-month review that the position was more than likely to go permanent. However, after about 3 months this manager went on long-term sick and the area manager took on some of his work from a distance, meaning that he was not in the office a great deal. He decided that my role was to radically change (in terms of cold-calling etc) and did not think that I would be able to do it. I believed that I could, and persevered. Although this was not easy, I did manage to obtain results in a difficult situation, while continuing to operate my usual area to assist my colleagues who I got on with brilliantly. The 3-month review did not take place as planned, until I had one on 5-months, at which point it was stated that reviews take place at 1, 5 and 12 months which is very different to the 1, 3 and 5 months I had been told. At this review, the area manager decided - with no proof whatsoever - that he didn't think I was a "natural born salesman" despite achieving results and working extremely hard under difficult and unexpectedly-changed conditions. He seemed to be rooted in his belief that I was not suited but could not provide any proof nor provide any actual assistance that the company handbook had promised, and handed me a 4-week notice period, with an offer of a transfer to a different role that involved tasks I did not feel that I could achieve, in a location that I could not access. In a state of shock, I signed the review form but feel now that I shouldn't have as I disagreed with all of it. It seems that officially I was being dismissed as having "failed the probationary period" which to me is wildly inaccurate. Was I the victim of unfair dismissal? I can't understand the probationary period system but that seemed really wrong.

bryan 03/08/2015

I have been asked to attend a probation meeting ( 2 days notice) and have been told I cant take any representative with me, is this true

Matt 20/07/2015

Hello, I am on a 12 month probationary period - usual for the company I work for apparently. shortly after joining this was amended to 6 months, a week later new starters were given a 6 month probationary period. Annoying and a little unfair but I agreed to the contract. It turns out the company are not the professional, world leaders they claimed to be, their equipment is not what they claimed it would be and lots more, very specific details which I asked about the role were 'creatively described' as in reality it is far from what I was lead to believe. I'm told that while during my probationary period if they are unhappy with me they can let me go with only one weeks notice, whereas if I am unhappy with them I have to give 4 weeks notice - again, this was mentioned in the contract so perhaps i should have thought twice before signing. However I would now like to leave this place immediately, can anyone help or is the best idea to find a way to be dismissed? - without facing criminal prosecution.

Tyeisha stots 13/07/2015

Hello my I was terminated without warning. I was there for 2weeks and I was on probation period. The mangers was so rude and never talked to me about the structure on the floor. I worked at Wordsworth as residential counselor. The staff there was rude I was supposed to shadowed but person I was assigned to left me behind. I felt lost

bash 04/07/2015

Hi, I am an mechanical engineer and I am currently learning the operations of the industrial machinery. There are different areas of equipment like press area pneumatics area and hydraulics area. The supervisor of the press area where I am at has never liked me since day one.She is polish and has some vendetta against me. She does not communicate with me and she has complained twice in 1 week. I am 2 months and 2 weeks into my probation and only 2 weeks left to complete my probation. My supervisor the head of engineering dept said I was likely to get sacked before I even had a chance to argue my case. I have done nothing wrong and Im not sure what I can do. Do they have to give me any written warnings before I get dismissed or can they just get rid of me without any written warningsduring my probation period. Even when she complained the first time, I didn't get the chance to challenge the counter argue her claims. She cannot communicate with me well and holds a grudge against me beacause she is not my supervisor and I don't answer to her. Can any of you help please??

Mary 02/07/2015

I am 5 months into a 6 month probation period. My boss called me for a chat with no notice and just him and me. He is not confirming my position as he wants someone more "evangelical" in the role. I have had no reviews and almost no feedback or support. A few comments he has made have been general. Lacking any evidence too. He just expects me to go ..... I have been sacked because I have no OTTva va vroom. I'm an accountant! Can you give me any advice please?

Dave Pulsford 28/06/2015

. I have just had my probation extended because in their words they forgot to do the 18 week review (this also in writing). So at exactly 26 weeks my probation was extended by 4 weeks. Although they were very happy with me. Only 2 weeks later I am summoned to a meeting by phone and told my probation cannot be confirmed because of an issue described as falsification of records. Is the probation complete or not?

Sam Cook, HR Advisor at FPM 01/06/2015

Thank you for the comments. Rhi - At this point your employer may just be concerned about how you get on with your colleagues. It may be worth keeping a log of your discussions and look at ways to demonstrate how you get on with all of your colleagues. Dhiren - Gratuity payments are rare now (apart from mandatory notice pay) but if you can find your original contract that refers to either how long your probation was or how the system works, you may be able to challenge this/ make a financial claim. Mark - any sickness must be treated as sickness absence and paid accordingly (although it is unlikely he will qualify for SSP). It is worth noting that apprentices have additional protection under employment law and have to be made allowances for when considering how to manage them. KM- probationary periods can be applied to all roles in the UK and it is likely they can in the Philippines too. If you do have concerns, it may be worth seeking local advice though. Please note ACAS and CitizensAdvice can provide free advice to employees in the UK on these matters. FPM members can e-mail the adviceline.

KMVillaflor 01/06/2015

Hi, I am from the Philippines and cooperatives are almost everywhere. Just a month ago, I was hired as their new General Manager (that means reporting to the Board of Directors). However, I was still put on the probationary period (and that is six months!). Can an (mid)executive post get the probationary period as well?

mark sutcliffe 17/05/2015

I have employed an apprentice. The apprentice is serving a 3 month probationary period. They are 10 days short of the end of the period. They have just gone on sick leave for. Do I have to give hem the sick leave or can I request that they work back the hours missed? If the Apprentice completes the period successfully their contract of employment entitles them to up to 7 days sick leave, before claiming SSP

DHIREN SHAH 15/05/2015

I have starting my job in july 1993 & I have left the job in march 2015. My boss calculate my gratuity for 20 years. He says first year of service is your probationary period

Rhi 25/04/2015

I'm on a six month probation due to end in August. I have one supervision session, during which I was informed that I give 150% but they would happy with 85%. Two weeks later I had cause to challenge the conduct of two colleagues. A week later the two colleagues complained to management about my conduct. Everything the complained of was false, bonne of my many other colleagues have complained about me, to the contrary they have highly praised my conduct etc. Management have since investigated these matters, say there is no link between my challenges of my colleagues and their subsequent complaints. A friend of the investigator has also now complained about me after I told the investigator about her behaviour during a training session. The investigator keeps highlighting that I am on probation and I could potentially be fairly dismissed. Please advise.

gerald dzumbira 13/04/2015

I finished my probation period at my workplace on 6April 2015 and it was for 6months. I had supervision with my manager for the past six months. On 13th April I had another supervision on 13th April 2015 and the manager told me she is extending my probation period for another 3months and she is going to notify human resources. I feel. I have been treated unfairly. the reasons of extending probation period are time keeping, organisational skills and communication

Nicky 29/01/2015

when you verbally give in your notice to your manager and the manager accepts the verbal notice of 1 Week whilst i am supposedly been told the company will pay me till end of the month, while I am still on probation period and the following day I get a letter through my door to tell me I have been dismissed from my work can I go through unfair dismissal ?

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