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Probationary Period

Author: Jeff Durham - Updated: 11 December 2014 | commentsComment
Probationary Period

Because many companies spend thousands of pounds a year on recruitment and training they need to ensure that they get the right person for the job and whilst assessment tests and interviews will give them a very good idea in terms of assessing the most suitable candidate, they can never really be entirely certain that the person they offer the job to will be the best choice they could have made until the successful applicant starts doing the actually job. After all, there are a couple of factors to consider.

It’s not simply just about how well you can do the job but also if you can Fit in with the Team, which is something that is quite difficult to establish just at interview. Therefore, many companies choose to ask you to work a probationary period before you’re fully made a permanent member of staff or you can be released if they decide they don’t wish to make you permanent.

The Probationary Period

Probationary periods normally last for about 3 to 6 months, sometimes longer, although if it’s a short-term, temporary contract, they can often be much shorter. They are designed to let employers assess how well you’re coping in the job, how you get on with the team and to establish whether or not they want to offer you the job permanently following the completion of the probationary period.

It’s important to remember that it’s not just about assessing whether or not you’re right for the job but also about whether the job’s right for you. The reason being that the company might need to invest heavily in training for you and, if you decide it’s isn’t what you want after all, either upon completion of your training or part the way through and you decide to leave, the company will have wasted their money on the training.

So, unlike a permanent position where you may have to give a month’s notice if you decide to leave or vice versa, the company wishes to give you notice, both parties should have the right to terminate the agreement whenever they choose. However, you’d need to check your contract to see if you’re required to give any notice or vice versa.

If you are going to be subject to working a probationary period, ask the employer to put down the terms of the agreement into an Employment Contract. That way, you’ll know what is expected of you and also the date upon which the agreement ends and you’re either taken on permanently or let go.


You’ll probably receive regular reviews throughout your probationary period to give you an idea on how you’re progressing and for you to give feedback on how you’re enjoying the job. It’s also an opportunity for either side to pinpoint any weaknesses or issues, which may be resolved by offering you additional training. This is not meant to be a criticism of your work performance but simply enables the company to take stock and to implement any additional training needs, if need be.

Team leaders and, perhaps, even the HR department too will have a strong influence during your probationary period so it’s important that you realise that these are the people you need to impress if you want to be taken on permanently once it comes to an end. However, providing you understand and deliver upon what’s expected of you, you shouldn’t have any real problems.

Your Rights

In terms of Minimum Wage, holiday pay, health and safety issues and the working time regulations, you are entitled to the same protection during your probationary period as are the permanent members of staff. However, if your boss decides to let you go during this period, you cannot claim unfair dismissal unless it was for reasons to do with harassment or some form of discrimination offence unless your probationary period runs for longer than a year, which is quite unusual.

You shouldn’t panic too much about a probationary period. It does, naturally, mean that you haven’t got as much security in your job initially to enable you to plan finances too far ahead but it is rare that poor performance is cited as the reason you’re not going to be kept on. Usually, a company will offer you advice and, where appropriate, further training in order to get you up to speed as opposed to letting you go for those reasons.

It’s also useful to go into these situations with the right attitude. Tell yourself that providing you do what’s expected of you, there’s going to be a permanent job at the end of it. Yet be philosophical also and if things don’t work out and you are not kept on, remember you’ve earned money during the period and, more importantly perhaps, you’ll have gained more skills to put on a CV, made new contacts and, at the very least, if it goes all wrong, you may be able to say, “I’ve tried that job but it wasn’t for me.”

If you're convinced that you have been unfairly treated during your probation period, then why not investigate more about unfair dismissal?

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[Add a Comment]
hi there, I wonder if you could give me some advice please. I commenced anew job in Aug 2014 (after leaving my previous employer of 17years). I joined my new company on the promise of sustained work & an initial 6 month training period. I have recently been gave my notice (on 21st Nov 2014),with the director claiming this is down to the economic downturn. I have since heard the correct version of the story, it is simply that they now (for some unknown reason) want rid of me but didnt want to tell me to my face ??. I have fitted in well as part of a team & have been helping out in other roles when the role that i have been employed in has gotten quieter. My question is, is it possible to make someone redundant even though the 6month training period has not.been fulfilled ?
Gerry Madden - 11-Dec-14 @ 10:30 AM
Hi, I started with a company 5 months ago. The probation period was 3 months (and I was supposed to have a one month and two month review to keep me on track) I had none of these and only just had the three month review 2 months late which brought sales averages down so I didn't pass and have been extended a month to improve or I will lose my position. Someone said if they hadnt mentioned anything after the initial 3 months then you just pass the probationary period and then they cant dismiss you with the reason being from probation, is this true?
lisa - 9-Dec-14 @ 10:47 PM
@bbbrown. If you feel you have been discriminated against for any of the reasons mentioned in the above article, you can take this to a tribunal. However, if you simply wish to make a point about the unprofessionalism of the company, or a specific manager, then do so in a letter to the HR department or senion management. Keep to the facts and keep it calm.
SafeWorkers - 4-Dec-14 @ 11:37 AM
@jamesNI- they are allowed to give you just one week's notice.
SafeWorkers - 4-Dec-14 @ 11:35 AM
@Luc. It depends on the wording in your contract and how much notice is specified. It's usual to have a week's notice only, during a probationary period but that is not always the case, so check the contract.
SafeWorkers - 3-Dec-14 @ 10:01 AM
I need advice. My probationary period has not been successful. I feel like ive been dealt with unfairly in actual fact ive not experienced an attack this personal. There r many variables I can mention. The one point sited has been my communication skills. Where this has not been a problem in my 15 career. I do not wish for this to be a long laborious process I would just like the injustice of the situation to be highlighted
bbbrown - 2-Dec-14 @ 3:38 PM
My contract states under a notice section that I have to give 1 months notice. But under a probationary section it says that "they" can give me 1 weeks notice during the probationary period which last 6 months. During that first 6 months can I also give just 1 weeks notice or are they allowed to request 1 month from me while they only need to give 1 week?
JamesNI - 2-Dec-14 @ 2:42 PM
@pep. It's unlikely that you would get much compensation for this. Write to the employer and ask that they explain the reason for the probation period overrunning and if they can provide you with a reference. Usually, if a probationary period has expired, you can assume you have passed successfully, so they have at the very least, misled you and not followed correct procedures.
SafeWorkers - 1-Dec-14 @ 2:41 PM
Hi, I live in Wales and have just recently stared a part time job on a 6 month probation, as it's quite far for me to travel there and back! and I find it to be very welsh as I'm English speaking! I was just wondering would I have to work a month notice or can I just leave?
Luc - 30-Nov-14 @ 10:34 AM
Hi, I have was in a permanent contract with a probation period of 6 months. The 6 review was done after 7 months of emploiment. After two meetings the company decided to let me go (the real reason are my health issues, but they claimed that I had been late sometimes) I can´t do anything about it because althought it is obvious that it is an excuse, they can do it. My question is: how bad is it that they had me 1 extra month in probation than the contract says? I do not want to go back to work for them, all I want is to be given good references and also maybe a bit of compensation if possible. Many thanks
pep - 28-Nov-14 @ 7:44 PM
@S3321. As a long standing employee you would have the right to claim unfair dismissal if you considered it to be so. You also have the right to more notice depending on length of service. It's probably better not to worry, it is may be a standard contract that is given to all employees.
SafeWorkers - 24-Nov-14 @ 12:21 PM
Hi I have worked for a company for nearly 3 years in a position and have done well. I have transferred over to a different position within the same company, but a different role. I have been told I have to pass my 3 months probation? If I do not pass can I just be dismissed even though I have continued service?
s3321 - 21-Nov-14 @ 4:32 PM
@Jo. It depends on the reasons for not passing your probationary period. If it was because you were overqualified, then you will have to explain that to any potential employer. Perhaps you can have a chat with your previous employer about the good/bad things they are prepared to say about you in any reference. Many people fail probationary periods for a variety of reasons, so it is not entirely unusual.
SafeWorkers - 17-Nov-14 @ 10:29 AM
Hi, I started a fix term contract (9 months) with a 3 month probationary period.I was excited about this opportunity at first but once started realized quickly that it wasn't what I thought it would be.It wasn't a great environment to work in and I felt undervalued as wasn't given work that I was supposed to do yet rather that of someone 3 grades below me (which was fine as it was work instead of me twiddling my thumbs all day).I didn't pass my probation, which wasn't a shocked to me, and actually was quite a relief to be leaving. My only concern is how will this affect me when trying to get a new job? Some employers require a recent reference from your last job.If i was to give them my last employer would they ruin my chances of getting another job elsewhere? Thank you Jo
Jo - 17-Nov-14 @ 12:12 AM
@viviennewatson. You are taking the right approach. State your case and the circumstances surrounding the periods of sickness. If you have an idea about whether there are likely to be follow up appointments or future periods of absence, then it's fair to let your employer know about that too. Your union rep will be able to help you with any legalities and to make sure the hearing is conducted properly.
SafeWorkers - 10-Nov-14 @ 2:11 PM
I stared my job as a temp in sept 2013 and was offered afixterm contract in jan 2014 and permenant contract in march 2014. I have bedn unfortunate to have had a laparoscopy in jan off for 5days with a sick note due to pelvic back pain whuch has been resolved. Ive had a further 5days in april with diabetes and an additional 7 weeks due to cervical spine surgery recovery. I was still in my probatiobary period throughout as it is a p see ti I d of 10 months, and on return have been told I hsve haveattend a probationary hearing due to my sickness absence. None of my sicknesses could have been avoided as the surgery in both instances were necessary. The hospital gave less than 5 days notice for the surgery date of the 16/9/14. I am so distressed at the possibility of being fired which the hearing letter states could be a possible outcome. Im in a union for all its worth and a union rep will accompany me to the hearing. I have used all my annual leave to attend hospital appointment so that it didnt impede my employment and my one to ones with my line manager have always been exempkary so my work ability havenever bedn in question.My manager feels it a very unfortunate situstion which couldnt gave been avoided but the hearing will solely be a bout tge 46 days of sickness and the wsy thus has effected the business.I intended to argue my case in front if the panel as they are not dusputing that my sickness is genuine just the time i have had off sick and I have to show that there was no way I could have avoided it. Can anyone give me an opinion
Vivienne Watson - 8-Nov-14 @ 10:56 AM
@jonesy24. You cannot be sacked for being pregnant. This would be contravention of the Equality Act 2010.
SafeWorkers - 7-Nov-14 @ 2:07 PM
hi I started my new in August and I'm currently in my probabtion period This ends 10 December but iv just found out I'm pregnant I'm scared they will sack me I really want to continue working for them after please could you give me some advice? Thanks
jonesy24 - 6-Nov-14 @ 7:28 AM
@hannah. There's nothing to stop them doing this. YOu should make sure that the reasons for your leaving you previous job are clear on any future job applications. It may be worth contact the new company and explaining anyway.
SafeWorkers - 3-Nov-14 @ 11:19 AM
Hi I started working for a cleaning company in November but gave my notice in March due to leaving the area and the fact it would not be possible to travel to work due to the long distance . I gave my notice and even trained up other new worker . I have recently applied for a job and need a reference from my previous employer and they have refused to give one stating I didn't complete my probationary period . Can they do this as without the reference I am unable to take on the new job . Any advice will be great . Thanks
Hannah - 31-Oct-14 @ 11:19 PM
@Louby - it will all be included in the contract she was given either by the temping agency if she went through one, or by the company.
SafeWorkers - 31-Oct-14 @ 1:57 PM
Hi, my daughter has started working at zara on a temp perm contract for Christmas this week. She is not enjoying it and can do hours elsewhere. Does she need to give notice? Thank you Louise
louby - 30-Oct-14 @ 3:27 PM
Hi I started a new job in August this year, i have been waiting for over a year for a operation on my knee and i have finally received my operation date after the op i may need up to 6 weeks recovery. I have a 6 month probation period stated in my contract. The issue i have is i have been contacted by my previous employer and they have give me a offer to go back which i want to except. I am going to tell my current employer about the operation which i have booked in but i will find out about the new job before my operation. Can you please advise me the best way to go about this, do i hand my notice in before my operation and then go off sick during my notice period or do i do this after my operation? Im just worried that because I'm in my probation period that they will just let me go and i will be without work?
S - 29-Oct-14 @ 7:14 PM
@johnno. No this shouldn't happen. Under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) the following should happen: "When a business changes hands, employees of the previous business owner automatically become employees of the new owner and they are employed on identical terms. The effect of a transfer is that employment contracts are treated as though they had originally been agreed with the new employer. Continuity of service is unbroken and employees maintain all the rights and responsibilities stated in the contract of employment with their previous employer."
SafeWorkers - 22-Oct-14 @ 12:50 PM
@minde. No they do not necessarily need to take this into account. See our full guide on Probationary periods and what you need to know - there is a similar question there which has been answered in the feature itself.
SafeWorkers - 21-Oct-14 @ 10:50 AM
I been working for this company for 6 years a new company has taken and said we on a probationary period
johnno - 20-Oct-14 @ 4:52 PM
@yeti. If you were still in the probationary period, then their stated notice (during the probationary period) is the one which should have been implemented. So if the requisite notice period was 2 weeks, then it's only reasonable to expect to be charged for that...6 weeks would be considered unreasonable by a tribunal, or the courts, so challenge it.
SafeWorkers - 20-Oct-14 @ 2:29 PM
I worked as a temp for 8 weeks when they offered me a permanent job with a 6 month probationary period, should they of taken account of the 8 weeks I did temping.
minde - 19-Oct-14 @ 2:29 AM
Hi i finished working for a company 3 mounths ago and they offered me more money to go back to them and i did i signed a new contract i have worked a week on nights and i did a 67 hour week i know it was a bad week and i had made a mistake going back on the fourth night i told them i was finishing on the friday and i would not be back. i take as it it a new contract i'm on a probationary period and it says i have to give 2 weeks notice i know i didn't give any notice and i was expecting something but not having to pay 6 weeks pay plus £1500 on top for agency cover but on the contract it says after probationary period its 6 weeks notice can you tell me where i stand ?
yeti - 18-Oct-14 @ 3:27 PM
@chris. The usual test still applies even when you're in probationary period: did your employer act reasonably in all the circumstances? From our article Probationary Periods and What You Need to Know you will see the following: "Your employer has a duty to take reasonable steps to assist employees such as giving them adequate training to enable them to carry out their job. If you are dismissed on the basis of your performance, you would normally expect a reasonable employer to have discussed your performance with you on a prior occasion and given you the opportunity to try and do better."
Unfortunately even if you consider the employer to have acted unreasonably, you cannot take them to an employment tribunal as you have not been employed by them for long enough. It is worth taking the time to write a letter to management/HR department objecting to your treatment and the unprofessional manner in which the probationary period was handled. Be sure to include all the details that you have given here.
SafeWorkers - 17-Oct-14 @ 11:39 AM
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