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Probationary Period

Author: Jeff Durham - Updated: 21 November 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]
@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
Hi, I started with a company and was on a 3 month probation period, the first 2 weeks were supposed to be induction but this was shortened to 1 week because they were happy with what I was doing and were keen to get me on shift. Shortly after this I was then in the position of instructing another member of staff who worked in a different area how to do the job I had only just been shown! The job involved dangerous cleaning duties of plant machinery which I should have been trained properly to do, I never signed the policies to say that I had been shown this (which I hadn't) but was put in the situation where it was my duty to go and do it. After being there 1 month they have ended my probation saying that they are not happy with my performance and do not want to continue. I was given no notice of any errors in my work but at the meeting they claimed my work was not up to scratch, I asked for specific examples which they couldn't give. This most likely came about from my supervisor who did not like me and essentially made up things to take to the manager in order to get rid of me. I asked why if my work was not up to scratch they waited until I had done a full day's work before having this meeting with me (as the job was quality control - I would be costing them money if my work was not right all day) they gave no answer and the manager just backed her colleagues ridiculous claims. Do I have any recourse, legally or through the company's grievance or harassment procedures, again this is all based on the supervisor not liking that I disagreed with them.
Chris - 16-Oct-14 @ 7:36 PM
@lisa. If the contract that you have suggests a 1 week notice period, then until that is changed (which cannot be done without your consent). If your contract states that the notice period during probationary is 1week and then 1 month once the probationary period is over then that is a different matter. If you have already signed an agreement (you mention that you signed something when told you had passed your probationary period), then it's likely that you will be bound by the terms of contract for your job.
SafeWorkers - 14-Oct-14 @ 11:22 AM
Hello,in my contract it states that my probationary period is 6 months.My boss knew I was going for an interview last week, and when I had my appraisal she said I was doing an exceptional job and is ready to sign off my probationary period (I have been there for 4 and a half months). I got the new job and stated I am giving one week's notice as per contract as I have been there for less than 6 months. She has now told me that as I have passed my probationary period (I stupidly signed it on Thursday and now feel like I have been stitched up!) that I have to give 1 month notice which would mean starting my new job late. Where do I stand on this please? I have no written confirmation yet..
Lisa - 13-Oct-14 @ 7:33 PM
I have worked at my company for about 9 months now. I was on a 6 month probation and on the 6 month no one in the company, mentioned anything about passing my probation. 2 months ago my job role changed, I was given a more demanding role and still on the same pay and also no contracts were signed, so I decided to email the MD and explain what am going through, and to see if we can review my role and salary.t The MD emailed back saying "you no longer have to come back to work" am pretty sure this is not allowed, can I make a legal claim for wrongful/constructive dismissal?
RCSFired - 28-Sep-14 @ 11:08 PM
@J. No if your contract states a 14 week probationary period then that's what it is. If, by the end of 14 weeks you were not informed that it was being extended or otherwise, then it's reasonable to assume that you have passed through it successfully.
SafeWorkers - 8-Sep-14 @ 12:36 PM
@M. Your employer has been dishonest in leading you to believe that cutbacks were the cause for your dismissal. You should take a look at your contract to see if there was anything specific relating to the ending of a probationary period. While we cannot find anything that suggests an employer is legally obliged to give a specific reason for failing an employee's probation period, it is certainly courteous to do so. Sorry we can't be of greater help on this one.
SafeWorkers - 8-Sep-14 @ 11:46 AM
I have worked for the same company since 2011, however i started my new role within the company on 01/06/14.I have been told the new role I am in is on a 6 months probation period, however they are now changing the job description and now I no longer want to work in that role as it was not what I applied for.Can they change the job description.
loubee - 4-Sep-14 @ 11:30 PM
Hi, in my contract it states that my probation period lasts 14 weeks. I have been at my work longer than this however yesterday I was off sick and when I returned today I had at meeting at which I was told that I am still on my probation period and if I am off sick again i will have to attend a hearing. Can my work change my probation period from what my contract is saying without informing us?
J - 4-Sep-14 @ 11:10 PM
I joined a company on a 6 month probationary period and after 5 1/2 months was given notice saying that the company was making cutbacks and in writing 'due to some unavoidable circumstances' they couldn't continue my employment. Since then I have seen the job advertised and they are clearly looking to hire someone else for the role. I know I cannot claim unfair dismissal as I wasn't there for 2 years, do I have any rights to claim wrongful dismissal on the grounds that they lied?
M - 4-Sep-14 @ 9:12 PM
Hi im in a simalar situation. My probation finished 3weeks ago.i have been asking for an appraisal as my boss said my performance isnt good enough. He hasnt explained why or if im still on probation.or not and has ignored my request for appraisal. I have juat handed in my notice as he is bully and there is a high turnover of staff si wanted to jump before I got pushed. Thing is if im on probation its a week if not its four weeks and I want to leave as soon as I can. Any thoughts please :-)
jacobs - 31-Aug-14 @ 11:51 PM
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