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A Guide to The Employee Probationary Period

Employee Probationary Period

Employee Probationary Period

The Employee probationary period is fast becoming an established practice in the U. K. With so much at stake, all potential employers have needed to objectively assess whether the shortlisted candidates would be suited for their intended roles. Below are guidelines to help your company manage the probationary period.


How long should the Employee probationary period be?

The length of an employee probationary period is determined by you, the employer. It can be anywhere from one week to 6 months depending on the job. During that period, a performance review is arranged to assess progress and an extension of time if need be.


What’s expected during the probation period?

At the commencement of an employee probationary period, the employee should expect;

  • A breakdown of all roles they would be performing in the organization.
  • Details of the organization’s core values and mission
  • Any development required to help the employee perform their duties
  • A mention of the date(s) when the performance review meetings will be conducted.


The manager will structure the process such that all the parties involved know what is expected of them. Note that the statutory rights of the employee count as soon as they come for their first day of work. However, during the probationary period, the rights ‘seem’ less favourable. For instance, you;

(i) Get a shorter notice period

(ii) Are still not entitled to medical benefits

(iii) Are not entitled to death in service benefits.


All the same, you retain your right to minimum wages, a paid holiday, itemized payslips and applicability of the working directive among others.


Handling difficulties

If you (the employer) are experiencing problems with your employee during probation, you don’t have to wait for the next performance review – discuss and figure a way out of the problem. Your approach should reinforce the strengths of the employee, their shortcomings as well as offer an opportunity for them to respond.


Extension vs. Termination

If the suitability of the employee is in question then two things can happen; the probation period can be extended or the employee may be dismissed. An extension is normally granted in conformity to the employment contract or employee probation form. The length of the extension and its end date must be stated. In addition to this, the reason and support material for the extension should be available. When you make a decision to fire the employee, you must give them a notice of at least 5 days and a reason for termination.

Should there be a breach of contract during the employee probationary period leading to a dismissal, an employee can file a wrongful dismissal. There is a catch here though; this only applies when the employee has been working in the organization for at least 2 years (Note that the years will be counted starting from April, 2012). Instead, an employee dismissed during their probation can file for harassment, whistle blowing or discrimination.

Failure by the organization (you) to follow the contractual dismissal procedure can be very costly. For example, any employee protected by the ‘Equality Act’ of the U.K. can file two claims against you – wrongful dismissal and an act of discrimination. Now that you know about some frequently asked questions about the employee probationary period, you should be able to make better choices for your business regarding employees and probation periods.

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