Probationers have no different legal status to an employee who is not subject to a probationary period and therefore do not generally have any different rights. Sometimes employees have shorter notice periods during a probationary period, which is legitimate as long as this observes the statutory minimum period. Probationary periods are often used as a trigger to review performance at the early stages of employment.
In all cases of disciplinary action by virtue of misconduct or poor performance, including dismissal, you should follow the ACAS Code of Practice. If you do not and the employee succeeds in bringing certain claims against you (including unfair dismissal, breach of contract and discrimination) then any compensation may be increased by up to 25% because of the failure to follow the procedure. Therefore the risk in not following the procedure is lower in the absence of such claims – for example if the employee has under one year’s service and there is no claim for discrimination or special case of unfair dismissal in relation to which you do not need one year’s service, such as whistleblowing.
There is always a risk in not following any procedure. The absence of any procedure can be used to support an argument of discrimination and also does not give you the opportunity to ascertain from the employee if there are any issues which may increase the risk of such claims or explain the poor performance.
You should check whether the disciplinary procedure is stated to apply during the probationary period. If it is there will be an expectation although an employee will still only be able to rely on this if the procedure is contractual.