How can you manage Probationary Periods with your Employees

How can you manage Probationary Periods with your Employees?

As an Employer and employing people, we advise that you add a probation clause into their Contract of Employment, although, it is important to remember that an Employee with under 2 years’ service can still be dismissed using the short service dismissal and following your internal policies and procedures; however, in our article today we take a look at the 3 things you can do with probationary periods.


What is a probationary period?

Used as a trial period in employment for your new starters or anyone newly promoted. In the main, the periods used would be either 3, 6 months or in some cases you can add for up to 1 year. During this period, they offer the opportunity to assess the skills, performance, attitude, and aptitude of your Employee within this timeframe, similarly this period affords your Employee the time to see if they like the role too.

During the period of probation your Employee may be exempt from contractual clauses set by you, during the period this ‘may’ include notice periods, although worth noting all Employees have the statutory right to one weeks’ notice period and other statutory rights will still exist.

Other benefits may be excluded during the period so long as these are contractual.
Your contract could, however, contain terms that only apply during your probationary period, and which are less favourable than those which apply when your probationary period has ended. These terms must not take away your statutory rights.

It is also important to remember that once your Employee has started work, the number of weeks they have worked begins on the day they started, not from the time when the probationary period ended and that any contractual rights also started from their first day of work unless you add this to the contract.


What should I be doing during the probation period?

You need to ensure any new Employee has the relevant skills, experience, and aptitude; that they are performing in the role, and that they are a good fit for the culture in your Business.

The ultimate aim of the recruitment process is retention, you need to ensure you have an effective framework and a solid support mechanism in place.

Your framework needs to consist of the relevant and up-to-date:

  • Policies
  • Procedures
  • Supporting Documentation


You need to communicate these to your new Employee in the most effective way, where you need to issue any documents such as their Contract of Employment and Employee Handbooks ensure you do this, it forms part of the physiological contract.

A solid support mechanism for your new Employees needs to:

  • Helps them to understand what is expected of them within the role and the business
  • Who to speak to if they have a problem or need support
  • Where to get key information from when they need it
  • How to get the support they need


You also need to develop the knowledge and skills needed to fulfill their new role, through any training they may need.
An initial review to set all of this up, and the best time is usually around induction is ideal, you can then build the framework, support, and training around that; not forgetting to add review periods along the way.

You will be surprised at how you could lower your attrition rates by reducing the turnover in the probationary period.


What options do you have when things go wrong?

Terminating the employment is the obvious option and you have the right to do so, it is important to take into consideration basic factors some of which are here:
When on the probation period although they will not have worked for you long enough to qualify for unfair dismissal protection, they are still protected against harassment and dismissal for ‘protected reasons’ such as sex, age, gender, ethnicity, disability, religion, and cultural background.

You could also fall foul during this time, where you have not followed the contractual dismissal process, in this case, protection for wrongful dismissal would apply.


What would be reasonable grounds to terminate?

There are various reasons you can choose from, and it can be said that the area is a little grey, to say the least, we always suggest providing the individual with a reason.

You should be monitoring the progress during the period and discussing this on a regular basis, that should be a number one priority – common reasons for failing at probation would include:

  • Lack of skills within the role
  • Poor performance levels
  • Poor attendance or timekeeping
  • Personality clashes and poor fit


When considering any of these options your internal processes still should be followed with your Employee, your communication should be effective and your internal procedures followed.

It is important that you confirm this in writing to your Employee.


Do I need to terminate, or is there an alternative?

Where you feel your Employee may need more time you can offer an extension, there is no legislation around limiting the length of probation periods, it can be unfair at times to have unrealistic expectations by adding further extensions and these should be avoided.

Where an extension is granted, you would most certainly at this stage set objectives and goals with a clear action plan. This would need to be reviewed regularly to guarantee it is being maintained.

It is important that you confirm this in writing to your Employee.


What happens at the end of the period?

In an ideal situation either when your Employee is successful at the first stage or offered an extension and successfully completes this you would make the offer of a permanent position.
At the end of the extended period if there is no improvement you can still terminate.

It is important that you confirm this in writing to your Employee.


How long should a probation period be for?

We normally suggest a 6-month probation period as this allows you a balanced period to assess your new Employee, a shorter period can be rushed or missed and anything longer can drag the issue out, you can add an extension period in any event if you feel there is scope for improvement or other reasons.

If you have a high level of failures due to probation it may be time you addressed your recruitment process, some standard recruitment methods result in a one-one interview fail, so you may want to try other options.

Do you panic when recruiting – this is a vicious cycle, recruitment planning takes time, so you need to think ahead.
Is it the individual or the role itself – this happens a lot, a role is created or offered, then the physiological contract is shattered in week 1, this is by both parties as neither knew what was expected.

The Employee simply does not want to stay, a probationary period is a 2-way process, exit/leaving interviews should be conducted to establish why they are not staying or failing in the role.



How can we help?

We are experts dealing with Probation periods, you can contact one of our team today and we can assist you, contact us on: 0333 0069489 or email us on: [email protected]






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