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HR Tip: Probation periods

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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.


Q: “Is it a good idea to put new starters on a probation period and, if so, what should we say?”

A: If you put someone onto an initial probation period you commit yourself to spending time monitoring and developing the employee. If you terminate the person's employment before the end of the probation period because of unsatisfactory performance he or she may successfully argue that you did not allow the full period in which to reach the required standard. If you do decide to use a probation period you should state clearly in writing:

  • When the probation period ends.
  • That you have the right to extend it if the employee has a period of absence.
  • That you have the right to extend it if the employee fails to make the grade.
  • How much notice would be given during or at the end of the probation period
  • How many warnings would be given if behaviour or performance is unsatisfactory.
  • Any change to terms and conditions of employment if the probation period is completed satisfactorily.

You may consider it simpler not to have a probation period but to monitor the new recruit, do your best to help him or her achieve the required standard, but dismiss in the normal way if that standard is not nor is likely to be reached.

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2 Responses

  1. Is it a good idea?
    Is it a good idea?

    No – it leads to lazy recruitment. All the reasons given in the first answer are invalidated if the job is not properly assessed and the work the job holder does is different from what they were led to expect.

    Probationary periods should only be used in exceptional circumstances where both parties are aware of a risk to the job’s shape or existence. Too often they are the refuge of the average employer who has doubts about the candidate, or about the job, but do not have the courage to share this with the employee.

  2. up to
    I am of the school that says it is simpler not to have a probationary period but if you must; include the magic words ‘up to’ x months so that it does not imply a fixed term contrct as the Tip suggests

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Annie Hayes

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