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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 15 Jun 2018 | 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]
I just the sack after working at a company for 6 weeks I was really ill with a migraine and was being sick in the toilet and because I didn't open the bathroom door when I was being sick I got the sack. Now 4 days later I got 2 contracts through the post not signed by me or my employer is this illegal? I didn't no any of the rules because I didn't have a contract I wasnt even told I was allowed a hour break I was made to feel like I could only take 15 minutes I hate this economy it sucks but if I find out its illegal what they did to me I will be taking it further I've had enough of people taking the piss out of me especially employers I was builled to happy days lol
Kerz - 15-Jun-18 @ 4:36 PM
I had extension of probation period for another month. What if i so not go work for sickkness reasons( I have check up for cancer) .
Carol - 11-Jun-18 @ 10:29 PM
Joon - Your Question:
I don't think we have employees handbook. I've worked here for well over a year and I have asked several times for the handbook but no joy. I have asked around and no one else has seen it. I've also asked various mangers and they do not know the sickness policy either. I've read that government guidelines say to stay in contact with the sick employee but that wasn't done. Also the email they sent said they have fired him on poor performance and not for being ill.

Our Response:
If your company's sick policy, disciplinary policy etc are not mentioned in your contract, your employer should provide details of these elsewhere; this would usually be in an employee handbook. If he was fired on the basis of poor performance the sick policy is irrelevant anyway. If none of the employer's policies are obviously available, it's worth contacting a trade union or ACAS.
SafeWorkers - 11-Jun-18 @ 2:10 PM
I don't think we have employees handbook. I've worked here for well over a year and I have asked several times for the handbook but no joy. I have asked around and no one else has seen it. I've also asked various mangers and they do not know the sickness policy either. I've read that government guidelines say to stay in contact with the sick employee but that wasn't done. Also the email they sent said they have fired him on poor performance and not for being ill.
Joon - 8-Jun-18 @ 12:25 PM
Joon - Your Question:
My boyfriend started at my place of work 2 and a half weeks ago. Unfortunately I had caught the flu the week before he was due to start and he managed one day before succumbing to the flu. He has had no contact from them, I was the one to inform them every day on what was going on (we don’t have a lot of money so he has no credit to call in. Not that they gave him any numbers/email address’s in case of things like this) and he finally got a doctors appointment at the end of the second week off. I had tried to get a closer appointment but that was the only one I could get. He has a doctors note for this week (doctors are not back dating notes anymore, you just have to lucky enough to get an appointment) The probation period was not explained at all and today he was fired for not meeting the expectations of performance. Do they have a right to fire him like this without giving him much information in the first place?

Our Response:
He can be dismissed. Take a look at your employer's handbook/policy documents which will probably outline a sickness policy both in and outside of the probation period.
SafeWorkers - 8-Jun-18 @ 12:15 PM
My boyfriend started at my place of work 2 and a half weeks ago. Unfortunately I had caught the flu the week before he was due to start and he managed one day before succumbing to the flu. He has had no contact from them, I was the one to inform them every day on what was going on (we don’t have a lot of money so he has no credit to call in. Not that they gave him any numbers/email address’s in case of things like this) and he finally got a doctors appointment at the end of the second week off. I had tried to get a closer appointment but that was the only one I could get. He has a doctors note for this week (doctors are not back dating notes anymore, you just have to lucky enough to get an appointment) The probation period was not explained at all and today he was fired for not meeting the expectations of performance. Do they have a right to fire him like this without giving him much information in the first place?
Joon - 6-Jun-18 @ 6:42 PM
Cj - Your Question:
Im 14 weeks in to 13 week probation period had 1 day off sick and 1 day off due to issues were I am living other tennents anti social behavior can I be sacked for this or will I get warning ?

Our Response:
This will depend entirely on your employer's policy/attitude towards absences and whether they feel, this kind of thing may occur in the future.
SafeWorkers - 5-Jun-18 @ 10:48 AM
Im 14 weeks in to 13 week probation period had 1 day off sick and 1 day off due to issues were i am living other tennents anti social behavior can i be sacked for this or will i get warning ?
Cj - 4-Jun-18 @ 10:51 AM
I have had my probationary period, which was 3 months for a further 3 months.I did not receive any reviews during the 1st 3 month period and received a notification after this period had expired that the company I work for was extending it for a further 3 months.This was delivered by way of an email from my line manager.I was not notified of this being proposed at any time prior to this.Is the fact that I was notified past the end date of the initial 3 months reason for me to raise this with my line manager and also the fact I never had these reviews prior to this.My manager and his close work team are coming down on me very hard for every single thing.I have been working very long to try and show my value - albeit I did so before this.I am worried. Any clear advice on this would be very helpful to alleviate my concerns about my position.
bag - 31-May-18 @ 9:51 PM
Hi I’ve been working for 3 months I have signed a contact and I’m being bullied by my boss. There has been many incidents however the latest one I was called into the office where my boss her mother and another man was there and they said that people were scared of me in my work place because I was big and heavy unlike the boss who is skinny. I’m now Ill and feeling to anxious to go back to work, where do I stand with sick pay.
L - 30-May-18 @ 6:12 PM
hey it is tani again. I am really worried..what do they do if they extend probation...what are reasons if they terminate ur contract
tani - 30-May-18 @ 4:18 PM
i have been working on belhaf of an agency for the last 2 months. i have been sent to work for the council on a 3 month probation period. 2 months in and the council have actually advertised the job, so i went for the interview to work for them full time instead of through the agency. cut a long story short i was unsuccessful in the interview although im currently working there. i need answers to were i stand because although i didnt get the job i was still promised 3 months probation period from the agency. to me this seems ( UNFAIR DISMISSAL) i no im with the agency but i didnt think the council can cut me short of a month due to them finding someone else any help will be appriciated
jay - 29-May-18 @ 11:58 PM
I started my job in November 2016. My boss signed off my 6 month assessment with flying colours, he then signed off my 12 month assignment with flying colours. I then got called for a quick chat by hr as someone from a different department complained that when the world came to a stand still when it snowed they got their forms a day late. The work was done and on my desk but they left early due to the weather. I then couldn't get in for 2 days. Because I pointed this out I was then called in for another chat to prove I was fulfilling all my contract hours. The same person that complained about me then started emailing via hr. I requested that they email my direct as I found it not the best working environment. I then got put on probation as I was told I had attitude and didn't show enough respect to the person that complained. They they moved all my deadlines forward by over a week knowing I wouldn't be able to meet them all. My probation has now been extended again to Aug. Providing this person agrees I have jumped through their hoops a d stokes their ego I may be offered a permanent contract. My boss and my department are more than happy with everything I do. I only deal with the person that complained 1 or 2 times every couple of months and is in a different department. Can someone in a different department get you put on probation? If my boss and my department all agree I'm doing above and beyond in my work shouldn't they be the ones to sign me off? Can this be classed as harassment or bullying?
Tally - 29-May-18 @ 8:08 PM
I have been employed for 9 months. After six months my probation period was not signed off and was extended. I have not had any notification that that period has ended and my probation period was signed off. I have now told my employer that I am leaving and they have stated that I have to five 6 weeks notice because I automatically passed my probation period, as I've been there longer than 9 months. This is not mentioned in my contract or anywhere else that I know of, so is this my employer just trying to get more than the required week for someone in their probation period?
Wilks - 29-May-18 @ 6:40 PM
tani - Your Question:
Hey I am very worried I have my probation period meeting this thursday.i dnt think I will pass, the reason y my manager has asked to think about what training to give, etc to me this sounds like im not doing well. I cannot seem to relax.would they say in a letter they will discuss performance before the meeting.

Our Response:
This could be a positive thing not a negative one. Your manager may simply want to get you to think about how've you done and what you can aspire to etc.
SafeWorkers - 29-May-18 @ 11:28 AM
Hey I am very worried I have my probation period meeting this thursday...i dnt think i will pass, the reason y my manager has asked to think about what training to give, etc to me this sounds like im not doing well. I cannot seem to relax...would they say in a letter they will discuss performance before the meeting.
tani - 28-May-18 @ 1:00 PM
I started my job back in August with 6 months probation period - I was notified in April that my probabtion has been extended till the end of May - today I wa stold its actually the end of June - due to the lack of training I have not received - is that legal? thanks
SANTANA - 23-May-18 @ 7:46 PM
Hi, thanks for you reply. The contract doesn't state anything regarding filling the competency folder. I will told verbally after 3 months that they were happy with me but would have to extend my probation period another 3 months due to THE COMPANY not issuing me with a competency folder when I first started and explaining I need to start completing this. However it was after this that I then asked about the grade rise and they told me " only after the folder is complete" My point really being, there are other employees who have started and not had the experience I had from a previous employer. And it doesn't say in there contracts " after successful probation period employee will become a grade 1 ". so if they are saying I need to complete the competency ( that takes around 2 years ) they may as well have not put it in the contract? Just a bit confused is all but I think I will do as you said and have a professional go over it to see where I stand. I just feel they are trying to put off giving me the pay rise.
Name Not Shown - 18-May-18 @ 9:19 AM
Connie - Your Question:
Hi I had past my probation on the 11th of April and not had any reviews or had confirmation that I passed.I am 1 month and and 4 days over it.I was also suspended last week because I wasn’t going to sign a conversation another store manager had done with me as I didn’t agree with the allegations and the way it was performed so hence I said I won’t sign anything.They now want to do a a performance review with me a long side the suspension which I am still awaiting a letter with the allegations.Can they do that even tho I gone I er a month pass my six month probation ?

Our Response:
This doesn't sound as though it's related to your probationary period but to an incident that you were involved in as an employee.
SafeWorkers - 16-May-18 @ 2:56 PM
Name not shown - Your Question:
Hi,Within my company we have grades bottom being 3 top being 1.The contract I was first given to start was a grade 2. However on the first page of my grade 2 contract it says thatafter a successful 3 month probation period employee will become grade 1 This was now over 1 year ago. When I first asked about this I was told I could not be given a grade 1 without fulfilling my " competency folder ". It is not possible to complete this folder within the 3 month probation as there are many specific items that need ticking off and we can only tick them off if put on the specific job to tick that off. ( Types of repairs etc )I'd just like to know where I stand with this if you could help?Just for the record I am now in the process of completing the competencey folder. But realistically this will take another year.What can I do in my situation? ( if anything ? )

Our Response:
It may be worth asking a professional to take a look at your contract. Does it mention that the probationary period can be extended? Does it say that a successful probationary period relates to completion of the compency folder etc?
SafeWorkers - 16-May-18 @ 2:11 PM
Hi I had past my probation on the 11th of April and not had any reviews or had confirmation that I passed. I am 1 month and and 4 days over it . I was also suspended last week because I wasn’t going to sign a conversation another store manager had done with me as I didn’t agree with the allegations and the way it was performed so hence I said I won’t sign anything . They now want to do a a performance review with me a long side the suspension which I am still awaiting a letter with the allegations. Can they do that even tho I gone I er a month pass my six month probation ?
Connie - 15-May-18 @ 12:29 PM
Following on from my below comment. There is a significant pay rise between each of the grades.
name not given - 14-May-18 @ 8:59 PM
Hi, Within my company we have grades bottom being 3 top being 1. The contract I was first given to start was a grade 2. However on the first page of my grade 2 contract it says thatafter a successful 3 month probation period employee will become grade 1 This was now over 1 year ago. When I first asked about this I was told I could not be given a grade 1 without fulfilling my " competency folder ". It is not possible to complete this folder within the 3 month probation as there are many specific items that need ticking off and we can only tick them off if put on the specific job to tick that off. ( Types of repairs etc ) I'd just like to know where I stand with this if you could help? Just for the record I am now in the process of completing the competencey folder. But realistically this will take another year. What can I do in my situation? ( if anything ? )
Name not shown - 14-May-18 @ 8:58 PM
Tony - Your Question:
Hi , my offer of employment letter states that I would be on 3 months probation but my manager says it’s a mistake and should be 6 months.I am very confused as the job offer letter came from the HR department.Looking forward to your advice.Many thanks.

Our Response:
If you accepted the job on the basis of what you received in the offer letter, than your employer cannot change these terms after you have started working.
SafeWorkers - 14-May-18 @ 3:30 PM
annie - Your Question:
I worked for a company under contract for two yers taken on after six months sacked for miss gross conduct I swore at some di legally have a right as ive done my two year probation as company saying ive not worked there for two years

Our Response:
A probationarey period forms part of any employment period. If you have been employed for two years continously with no breaks then you have full employment rights including the right to claim unfair dismissal. If your employer's policy is that swearing constitutes gross misconduct, then you can of course be dismissed.
SafeWorkers - 14-May-18 @ 11:39 AM
i worked for a company under contract for two yers taken on after six months sacked for miss gross conduct i swore at some di legally have a right as ive done my two year probation as company saying ive not worked there for two years
annie - 13-May-18 @ 1:44 PM
Hi , my offer of employment letter states that I would be on 3 months probation but my manager says it’s a mistake and should be 6 months. I am very confused as the job offer letter came from the HR department. Looking forward to your advice. Many thanks.
Tony - 12-May-18 @ 9:35 AM
Hi. My contract states that my position Will be confirmed once I have completed my probation period of 6 months. I am now eight months without any confirmations. It states that during probation it is one week notice either way. After probation bearing in mind it has not been confirmed, it will be one month.if I am to give notice does this mean I could effectively give a notice of one week?
Hutch - 10-May-18 @ 10:55 PM
Can my employer sack me for having a doctors sick note whilst in my three months probation period
Adi - 10-May-18 @ 8:17 PM
Raffety - Your Question:
Hi can anyone tell me how much notice I need to give. I am in the 6 month probationary period which says 1 weeks notice but I only work part time and it's term time? Any help asap much appreciated

Our Response:
If your contract says you should give 1 week's notice - you should give the equivalent of one week. So if your working week is 3 days you will work your usual three days for that week's notice.
SafeWorkers - 9-May-18 @ 1:01 PM
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