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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 13 Jun 2019 | comments*Discuss
Probationary Period Employer Dismissal

A probation period is a trial period of employment. The employee is employed subject to satisfactory completion of this trial period.

Why have a probationary period?

Employers will often carry out an application and interview process. However you can't always tell from an interview how an employee will do in a job in practice, or whether they will fit in with an existing team. Employers therefore have a "trial period".

A probation period will commonly be 3 to 6 months, though they can be as little as 1 week in short-term contracts. The duration of any probation period must not be unreasonable. Performance reviews are common during this period, as they give both the employee and employer an opportunity to discuss any concerns and address these (for example with additional targeted training). Regular formal reviews are not however compulsory.

Reader's Question:

"I was employed on a maternity contract for a maximum period of 12 months, the lady whose post I was covering decided not to return to work and I was confirmed in the post on a permanent basis 1 month prior to the expected end of my maternity cover contract.

I have received my new contract and have been asked to enter into another probationary period. I am unsure if I should agree to this as I have already successfully completed a probationary period as set out in the terms of my previous fixed term contract."

If you do not think that a probationary period is necessary, speak to your employer. It may be that you have simply been given a standard contract. A probationary period gives you less security, but if you already perform the role well, you should pass with flying colours!

Rights during probation

Your statutory rights during employment start on the first day of employment, regardless of any probation period. However your contract may give you less favourable terms during a probationary period than after the period has finished. For example:
  • A shorter notice period (for both you and your employer)
  • No entitlement to free private medical care
  • No entitlement to death in service benefit

Any less favourable terms must not infringe your general statutory employment rights which include:

  • Right to be paid minimum wage
  • Right to holiday pay
  • Right to itemised pay statement
  • Applicability of the working time directive

Readers' Question:

"If an employer gives you a 6 month probation and then after 9 months you have still not had your 6 month probation review does that mean you have passed it or not?"

If you are not told during your probation period that it is to be extended or that you have failed your probation, you are deemed to have passed.

"I'm 3 months into my probationary period and am not happy. I've not yet had a contract of employment but in the staff handbook it says I have to give 2 months' notice. I have resigned and they tell me they are holding me to that. Could they sue me if I only give one month's notice?"

You must also abide by the relevant contractual terms, even during your probation period. If you do not, your employer could claim damages if they lose work or have to pay other employees a higher rate of overtime to cover work during a period that you should have been working. Any such claims are rare however.

Extending your probation period

If your employer has stated that they want to extend your probation period, check your employment contract. This should state under what circumstances your probationary period can be extended, and for how long. Your employer can only extend your probation period if your employment contract says that they can extend it in the particular cited circumstances (e.g to have more time to assess your performance).

Reader's Question:

"I'm 7 weeks into my 13 week trial period at work and am going out on sick leave. Can my new employer let me go after my 13 weeks if I'm still out on sick leave?"

This is a scenario in which an extension of your probation period is likely, as your employer has not yet had chance to fully assess your performance in the role.

Your employer cannot extend your probationary period for "protected reasons". These include:

  • Your ethnicity, religion or cultural background
  • Your gender, age or marital status

If your contract does not allow your employer to extend your probation period, they may wish to change the contract. You do not have to agree to change your contract. If you think that the proposed changes are unfair or less favourable to you, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau for free advice about your options. (Find your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau office, including those that give advice by email, at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/getadvice).

Dismissed during probation

Just because you were in your probation period does not automatically make your dismissal fair. The usual test still applies: Did your employer act reasonably in all the circumstances?

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.

You cannot claim for unfair dismissal during your probationary period as you will not have worked the relevant qualifying employment period. However you can still claim for:

  • Harassment
  • Dismissal due to "whistle-blowing"
  • Dismissal due to a "protected reason"/discrimination

Reader's Question

"I've started a new job on 3 months probation period, which is almost over (1 week) and have found out I'm pregnant. I have told my boss the date I'd like to work up until before maternity leave. He said he's not going to extend it and wouldn't give me a reason why and said that he doesn't have to. Is this the correct way to treat an employee?"

Potentially, you could take your former employer to an Employment Tribunal and claim damages. However you will need to have evidence relating to why you were dismissed. (e.g The fact that you are of an ethnic minority and did not get on with your former employer will not be enough. If you can evidence that your former employer said something racially discriminatory, or that all other employees of a different ethnicity with the same review scores are being kept on, that would be more relevant evidence.)If you think that you have been unfairly dismissed during your probation period, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau about what you can do.

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[Add a Comment]
My employer is trying to make me work a months notice when I have a week. Yesterday was dead on 3 months for my probation period and my review for this is booked in next week. I gave in my notice yesterday for a week and her argument is she was too busy to review me yesterday and it’s next week instead. But I handed in my notice to leave in a weeks time. She is saying I have to work a months notice as I was over my probation period but it wasn’t over it was dead on. Could anyone help thank you
Cree - 5-Jun-19 @ 2:37 PM
I didn’t complete my 3 months probation period.. am not happy with my job and I want to leave .. how much notice period shall I inform my employer..am a speciality Doctor Thanks
Saad - 3-Jun-19 @ 5:21 AM
My son has been working for 3 weeks out of his 3 mth probation and didn’t have his medication due to reasons beyond his control. His manager has told him they may not keep him as his performance on that day was not great. Can they do that?
Kristi - 25-May-19 @ 2:41 AM
Hi, My probation end on the 08/07/19 and I have only been off absence twice. once I pass my probation does the absences start from 0 again or will it continue from the 2 absences I have already had?
Shyfly - 10-May-19 @ 4:00 PM
A couple of months ago i was working for a company and was 4 days of the end of my 12 week probation when i rang in and told them I had road accident on motorbike causing me to break my elbow and few cuts and bruises...I was told just to get a sick note and get better soon! The sick note took abit longer than planned to get but a week later a few days after my probation period ended my boss said that im not entitled to any sick pay at all as they decided to fail me. This then caused me to get massivley far behind on bills, lost the house i was renting over 100 miles from any family, and has made me really deperssed and anxious as everything has gone down hill Is there any legal action to help mt case or am i fighting a losing battle?
Gammo - 20-Apr-19 @ 3:24 AM
Hi, I started a new job 4 months ago and the new employers said they would give me training. I have not had proper training and one of the employers stated that as well in my probation review period. I was suppose to be on probation for 3 months but it has now been extended for another month and ends on 4th April because I am still getting things wrong according to one of the employers. The other employer says I’m doing really well but he does by what the other employer says. I have not had adequate training to do my job professionally. One of the employers also said I’m not intelligent enough for the role as well. Considering they said they would train me and knew that I didn’t have experience in the field before I started. Can anyone tell me where I stand please?
Hello1 - 30-Mar-19 @ 9:00 AM
I have just been sacked whilst I was on sick leave. I was off with depression but the. Sick note didn’t say that. I was signed off for a month. Within that month I was due to have 4 days off as I was using my holiday up. The last day of my sick/holiday I received an email stating my termination of employment due to capability. I worked with another person who we shared an inbox, which we would receive jobs and notifications of jobs that have been cancelled. In the letter/email I got it said that I had cost the company £800 but not cancelling some jobs. I am afraid to say I am not the only person who deals with that so I am not sure how they have worked this out. I was also told time and time again about another member of staff costing the company a fortune. If I knew I had mad a mistake I would tell my line manger straight away so she would of known .They stated they only had to give me a weeks notice which ended the day I received the email. They have stated because I never got my letter after my probation period it was never formally closed. I spoke regarding this at the end of June to my line manager and she assured me I had the job. It was 1 Year and 2 weeks I had been at the work place and I was on a 3 month probation. I have had no warnings and feel I have been mistreated.
Blue - 30-Mar-19 @ 2:57 AM
My Grandson was hired and had a probationary period of 3 months. During that time he became ill. He was seen by a doctor and told he could not return to work that and also no work the following day. Upon return to work he provided the supervisor with the documentation provided by the doctor. He was told he was now on probation for 1 Year. If he got sick come to work any way and they would pay him to “puke” in a bucket. Any advise is greatly appreciated. Debbie
Debbie - 25-Mar-19 @ 6:54 PM
My previous company (of 9 years) have asked me back. Should I be subjected to another probation period, even though I would be doing the same role? It has been less than a year since I left.
Gina - 20-Mar-19 @ 7:09 PM
Hi i started a new job dec 2018 and its 12 weeks probation i was off 3 days during this time can i be sacked? Uk
Snoopy - 21-Feb-19 @ 4:40 AM
I went for an interview with a company i told them that i had never worked in this field before they assured me that they would train me i left my old job of 9 years to join this company i started this role they did not do any training they just dumped me in the deep end i when i asked question it was like i was the problem then 3 weeks later they dismissed me saying i was not cut out for the job im now unemployed what rights do i have
Pebbles - 16-Feb-19 @ 10:06 PM
I just started new work in UK my employer sighed documented with me with that condition of 1, if I left my job in less than six months than I have pay back my salary of training hours which is approximately 40 hours of my hard work Is that legit
Peter - 13-Feb-19 @ 3:19 PM
Hi I'm waitressing at a new place on 3 month probation. We got a probation letter setting out out hrs for shifts 1 and 2 and was informed they wanted me to work 27 hrs a week. The shifts don't match that as are variable thoughwas ok initially as i could be cleaning waitressing or doing bar work. I'm mainlydi8ng waitressing but every week the shifts get changed and I gave had my hrs reduced from 18 one week to 8 and now 6. I've asked for extra shifts to be told it's the needs of the service. Though I know those shifts are still being covered by others yet my probation letter says shifts may be changed or even increased with prior agreement. There is no discussion between management and employee. The timetable is changed weekly and until we see it we don't know what our shifts are. I've had my hrs and days cut from 4 shifts to 2 the last few weeks. Do i have any rights to be paid the hrs in my probation letter? There doesnt seem to be a fair distribution of shifts with some staff getting 5 or 6 shifts a week with 30 plus hrs.Ive been told im doing a goid job. Thanks
Shaz123 - 29-Jan-19 @ 11:58 AM
Hi I'm waitressing at a new place on 3 month probation. We got a probation letter setting out out hrs for shifts 1 and 2 and was informed they wanted me to work 27 hrs a week. The shifts don't match that as are variable thoughwas ok initially as i could be cleaning waitressing or doing bar work. I'm mainlydi8ng waitressing but every week the shifts get changed and I gave had my hrs reduced from 18 one week to 8 and now 6. I've asked for extra shifts to be told it's the needs of the service. Though I know those shifts are still being covered by others yet my probation letter says shifts may be changed or even increased with prior agreement. There is no discussion between management and employee. The timetable is changed weekly and until we see it we don't know what our shifts are. I've had my hrs and days cut from 4 shifts to 2 the last few weeks. Do i have any rights to be paid the hrs in my probation letter? There doesnt seem to be a fair distribution of shifts with some staff getting 5 or 6 shifts a week with 30 plus hrs.Ive been told im doing a goid job. Thanks
Shaz123 - 29-Jan-19 @ 11:57 AM
I have started a job and I’m 2 months into my probation period which is 3 months, but my grandparent passed away last night can I be fired for having time off because of it because I’m in probation period still or ?
Ash - 28-Jan-19 @ 12:38 PM
I am in a three month probation period and I have found another job. How much notice do I need to give?
Dolly - 18-Jan-19 @ 3:45 PM
I got promoted in October and my probation period ended on the 4th of January, I am due my performance review next Friday, i feel like they are going to demote me not Christmas is over. They never gave me any advice or information on my performance so far and I was told I was doing well in December. If they demote me can I Appel or say anything that can stop it happening?
Matty - 16-Jan-19 @ 8:26 PM
I was sacked before my probationary periodI'm I still entitled to my holiday pay, I was only there 3 months, many thanks for any help
Cookie - 6-Jan-19 @ 2:42 PM
I have been at my job for 5 years and have just been told that in the new year I will be on probation along with the two other women I work with. i do not think this has come from my head office but from my branch manager. has this happened to anyone else? can he do this? Thank you x
Marie - 29-Nov-18 @ 8:43 AM
I started my job with a three month probation period,2 others started after me on the same probation time. I have been working for 9 weeks and have been called in for a review the others haven’t yet. I know things have gone quiet at work does this mean I will go and the others stay because I have been there longer
Sugars12 - 14-Nov-18 @ 9:05 PM
my boyfriend started a lorry job on a three month probation.He was let out on his own on day 4 or driving a lorry without knowing fully what he was doing and had a minor accident which needed to go through insurance.This was 6 weeks ago and has not been a problem.He has been called into office today and his probabtion period and job have been terminated.Is this fair?All the other drivers have incidents all the time, but I guess not in probabtion period.
Sarah - 6-Nov-18 @ 1:47 PM
I have been employed for 1 year and my probation period for this company is 1 year. My manager has stated that she is extending my probation by another 3 months.I have done everythingI am asked to do,I am not stupid and can work confidently on my own.The reason was that I'm on a stage 2 warning for taking a sick day, though I text the day before to ask permission.Apparently I haven't come up to scratch and given my age and work experience this is disappointing, this was said twice,it was very humiliating.At present we are short staffed and I'm often doing the job of 2 people. Please can someone advise me on my rights.Walking out and telling them where they can stick their job isn't an option,unfortunately.
Jal - 5-Nov-18 @ 6:21 PM
My son has to travel to his new job acne he had been late twice sure typo the bus not coming up. He has been late by five minutes each time..Both times he had been given a warning... Is this allowed considering he is doing his best to get in on time?
SONSDad - 18-Oct-18 @ 7:10 AM
My son has started a job 2 months ago with a 37.5 hour contact and 3 month probation.He is 2 months into his probation and just been told he has to have his hours cut to 24 hours. Is this allowed?The company had allowed those who start at 5.30 to have the full hours but those who start later like him have been told they can only do 24 hours a week
SONSDad - 18-Oct-18 @ 7:06 AM
I have been with my new companyfor 4 weeks and everything was fine but when I raised concerns about the company's future and was there anything to worry about , I was asked by the managerto give the names of the people who I had heard this form or I was out the door in the management words . I told him it was a the general feeling that I had heard not just one person. At that pointhe told me to go. Up until this point every thing was fine they were happy with my work but because I would not give him any names he told me to leave with out a weeks notice. I have been told that they are going to deduct money for the training I reserved even though it was in house and I could not use this training anywhere else. The 4 issues are can they deduced money for the training I.E paperwork and working with the company kit 2the reason for dismissal even though I have not done anything wrong my self and 3 they didn't give me a weeks notice also they are deducting the money for my uniform.
Stratton - 16-Oct-18 @ 6:27 PM
I started my job on 4 April and on 6 months probation (ie finished on 4 October) I received an email with an attachment (letter) inviting me to a hearing on 12 October. I can take a union rep or colleague to this meeting. Another member of staff will be taking notes. At no time has my work been questioned and my attendance has been 100%. I kinda feel they are going to dismiss me. Can they do this even though the probation period ended on 4 October ? Thank you
Jennifer Amison - 13-Oct-18 @ 8:03 PM
I had to have 10 weeks off work for sick leave as l was very ill. I went back and had some refresher training. Now l have been put into a training team with new starters and l am back on probation and have to go through accreditation again. I have been there a year and a half. I can see this is a way of getting rid of me. Before l went sick l made a few mistakes but everyone does!
Jane - 13-Oct-18 @ 4:10 PM
Hi. I am on probation for 3 months but my proposed salary for the position is not applied yet until I pass my probationary period. Is that possible?
Jesus - 9-Oct-18 @ 8:21 PM
I worked for an agency and was hired and I completed a 13 week trial work and stay there a total of 94 days. Time keeping exeptional work brilliant. attendance 94 days. No problems. Then I got a call from agency with no apparent reason that i'm dismissed. I feel i have been treated unfairly and if so what can I do about it?
thepope - 7-Oct-18 @ 2:08 PM
I am on a3 months probation and I need a day off as it my daughter birthday I have said I will come back of my holiday early if I can have the Sunday off and they said no ifI don’t go in can they sack me
Tommo - 4-Oct-18 @ 4:36 AM
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