Probationary Period definition

Probationary periods are defined periods of time that employees are exempt from certain contractual items, most importantly the notice period required for termination. The probationary period allows both employee and employer to see if they are a ‘good fit’ and to make things easier if they need to terminate the contract.

New employees commonly join on initial probationary periods of between three and six months, although some companies will extend this to a new year. Contract workers or those working part-time may be given shorter probationary periods.

Probationary periods are designed to give managers and employees a way to terminate the arrangement more easily should the employment not work out as expected. From the manager’s point of view they can use the probationary period to evaluate the worker’s performance, skills and abilities and also whether they engage with the existing organisational culture.

For employees, probationary periods are there to see if they enjoy working for the employers and whether the employee is a suitable match for their skills and abilities.

Once the probationary period is over, if both parties are happy with the employment arrangements, the employee is typically removed from probation. This may involve a raise or promotion but will also enable certain contractual obligations as defined in the employment contract, such as a longer notice period or access to certain benefits including pension schemes.

Companies may also place employees on a probationary period if their performance has been unsatisfactory or if they have been guilty of misconduct. This probationary period is typically a time for the employee to improve their performance, in the case of misconduct, for an investigation to take place. 

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