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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 22 Jun 2017 | 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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HKP - Your Question:
I had a 3 month probationary period in my last role and after 4 months and a week I was called into a probation review, told I didn't pass and given a week's notice (which was the agreed notice within the 3 month probationary period. The notice period after the probationary period was 3 months). In my contract it stated that the employer "may extend the probationary period under certain circumstances". It also stated that if this was the case, the extension reason and duration will be confirmed in writing". This never happened and the probationary period lapsed 5 1/2 weeks ago. I assumed that I had passed as I was not told otherwise nor did I receive any notification of extension. Can my employer extend the probationary period and then dismiss me, claiming that I did not pass my probationary period?!

Our Response:
If you were not told that your probationary period was being extended then you would rightfully assume you'd passed. We're not sure what the outcome of further action would be.If your employer has decided they no longer want you then you may not actually want to continue working for them anyway. Contact ACAS for advice.
SafeWorkers - 23-Jun-17 @ 10:17 AM
I had a 3 month probationary period in my last role and after 4 months and a week I was called into a probation review, told I didn't pass and given a week's notice (which was the agreed notice within the 3 month probationary period. The notice period after the probationary period was 3 months). In my contract it stated that the employer "may extend the probationary period under certain circumstances". It also stated that if this was the case, the extension reason and duration will be confirmed in writing". This never happened and the probationary period lapsed 5 1/2 weeks ago. I assumed that I had passed as I was not told otherwise nor did I receive any notification of extension. Can my employer extend the probationary period and then dismiss me, claiming that I did not pass my probationary period?!
HKP - 22-Jun-17 @ 12:33 AM
I have been working for a company since November 2016 but wasn't told I had to work a probationary period of a year and wouldn't be given a contract till after this period. I have now been offered a job with another company and am unsure how much notice to give or if they will give me a bad reference to the new employer. Please can you advise?
Black Orchid - 20-Jun-17 @ 9:32 PM
I was hired on a open ended contract and my role is permanent upon satisfcatory completion of my probationary period which ends on Friday 7th July 2017. Nothing been told yet but they said I am doing ok and had no probatiin meeting at all. Told by manager that if their are any major concerns of issue then they will make a decision to sack me at the end of my 6 month so preferby given my notice on the Saturday after probation expires .
Habib - 18-Jun-17 @ 11:02 AM
My daughter has worked for a large corporate company for over 3 years. Recently without any prior warning of any form (neither orally or written) she has been told that she can either resign with a small cash payment or go on three months’ probation (or as her superior called it a 3-month performance improvement plan) with the possibility of being fired at the end of it without any cash payment. She was also told that if she resigned she would receive a good reference. Is all this legal? Thankyou. Kind regards. Patrick.
Pad - 5-Jun-17 @ 8:22 PM
I started a job with a 6 month probationary period. My contract states that my employment can be terminated during probation period by giving the appropriate amount of notice. It doesn't say how long that is. Under the notice period section of my contract it says after probation I would need to give 3 months notice. So how much notice would I give during the probation period? Still 3 months?
Charliesangel - 4-Jun-17 @ 10:43 PM
Hi I started a new job a few weeks ago but I really hate it due to the treatment and the fact there refusing to pay me (promised weekly pay).i am still on probation and i want to leave how long do I need to give for a notice period? (I haven't signed any contract or anything)
Hannahrollinson19 - 1-Jun-17 @ 8:41 PM
I wanted to know that my probation period ended on the 25th of the month can my head of retail still extend my probation period after this date such as on the 31st 5 days after the 6 moth date ?
Shrek - 31-May-17 @ 5:11 PM
Coming to end of 3 month probation and been offered a contract for permanent position. Restrictive covenant will not allow me to work within 10 miles of office. If I sign this and leave it will be almost impossible for me to find employment in my chosen field. It would most probably mean a motorway journey each day just to work. Feels very unfair. If I don't sign they will not keep me on, if I do sign I'll be stuck there! Would a court see this as unreasonable? I'm pretty sure they would take measures if I do end up working within ten miles of them. Thanks Jen
Jenjen - 26-May-17 @ 6:58 AM
Hi I have almost reached the end of my 3 month probation period and have been given a contract to sign over the next few days. Most of it seems ok however there is a restrictive covenant that should I leave I cannot work within a ten mile radius of the office. This would mean I'd need to travel on a motorway just to find a new job. It would make finding employment in my chosen field extremely difficult. If I refuse to sign they will terminate my employment and if I sign, I'll be 'locked in'. Seems very unfair. Thanks Jenni
Jen - 25-May-17 @ 9:58 PM
Hi I started a job 6 months ago and was asked at my interview if I had any ongoing illness. I told them I had cancer which was uncurable and they gave me the job.I have been called to HR so many times asking how my cancer is, and why hadnt I told my manager about my ct scan that I had gone to on my day off. they even asked for a copy of it. Then my mum died suddenly and I had to take time of before that to look afterher. Now I have had my probation extended on grounds of my cancer and taking carers leave. I feel harrassed as they keep asking me about my cancer and just wonder if they can do this.
dibdob - 25-May-17 @ 3:27 PM
DirkAnderson - Your Question:
I've worked for a company for 3 months and 15 days, my boss has given me notice to terminate my employment and only wants to pay me 1 week notice pay. On my original employment contract , there was no mention of probation period or the length there of , in my opinion I believe that the probation period was to be 3 months in witch the notice period would be 1 week and thereafter 1 Callander month. I'd like to know what my legal rights are.

Our Response:
If there was no mention of a probationary period in your employment contract, then you didn't have one. Any notice period will be that which is documented in your employment contract.
SafeWorkers - 25-May-17 @ 12:51 PM
My other half started her job on the 3rd of April. Has only worked 23 days out of the time she has been there. She is in a 6 month probation period but is wanting to leave due to being offered a new job due to start next week. Her contract states that whilst in her probation and at the end, if her employer isn't happy they can terminate her employment. It states that notice period is 1 week of time at the company is a month or less and that 2 months notice is needed if time at the company is one month or more.. there is nothing stating that she has to give notice whislt in her probabtion but her employer is saying she needs to give 2 months notice as she's been there just over a month even though she's still in probation period. She's due to get paid Friday, can she wait until payday and then just quit?
Chris - 24-May-17 @ 6:00 PM
I've worked for a company for 3 months and 15 days, my boss has given me notice to terminate my employment and only wants to pay me 1 week notice pay. On my original employment contract , there was no mention of probation period or the length there of , in my opinion I believe that the probation period was to be 3 months in witch the notice period would be 1 week and thereafter 1 Callander month. I'd like to know what my legal rights are.
DirkAnderson - 23-May-17 @ 9:35 PM
Tash - Your Question:
I have been asked to leave during my probationary period. Other than the weeks money I am due (paid weekly in arrears) I am due a further weeks pay in leui of notice if asked to leave immediately?

Our Response:
Yes your employer should pay you for your notice period if you are not asked to work it.
SafeWorkers - 23-May-17 @ 2:14 PM
Dbee - Your Question:
HelloI had a 3 month probation period on my job which should have ended in March. However this has not been reviewed or signed off. I really hate the job but am starting a phd in october so am trying to look for temporary work in between where I may be happier and aquire a greater skill set. Within the probabtion period I needed to give 2 weeks notice but after that I need to give 2 months. For me it would be better to give 2 weeks. I was wondering whether because I havent been written off the probabtionary period if I could give 2 weeks or because it has gone over the 3 months and not mentioned I will have to give 2 months notice?

Our Response:
No, if you don't hear otherwise and your probationary period has expired, you can assume you have successfully passed it. Your notice period will therefore be one month.
SafeWorkers - 23-May-17 @ 12:53 PM
I have been asked to leave during my probationary period. Other than the weeks money I am due (paid weekly in arrears) I am due a further weeks pay in leui of notice if asked to leave immediately?
Tash - 22-May-17 @ 2:28 PM
Hello I had a 3 month probation period on my job which should have ended in March. However this has not been reviewed or signed off. I really hate the job but am starting a phd in october so am trying to look for temporary work in between where i may be happier and aquire a greater skill set. Within the probabtion period i needed to give 2 weeks notice but after that i need to give 2 months. For me it would be better to give 2 weeks. I was wondering whether because i havent been written off the probabtionary period if i could give 2 weeks or because it has gone over the 3 months and not mentioned i will have to give 2 months notice?
Dbee - 22-May-17 @ 8:06 AM
I was recently offered a job where on the job advert the salary stated was £18000 per annum. There was nothing to say "depending on experience". I am also fully experienced for the job anyway. The other day I received the official letter of employment which stated that I would only receive £16000 per annum for my 3 month probation. Nowhere was this stated before I received the email and it was not mentioned during my Skype interview with the director. I'm having to move cities for this job and have already taken on a flat and worked out living costs on the £18000 that was stated for the job. Where do I stand with this and what is the law pertaining to a different wage for the probation period especially when I was not made aware of it at anytime?
Holly - 21-May-17 @ 7:35 PM
Hi Ive just had my employment terminated via email during my 6month probationary period. I'm currently on a 2 week vacation which was fully agreed with before starting the employment. I started on the 3rd April 2017 and received a letter from my boss yesterday 19th May to say that they have cancelled my employment during the probation period but did not discuss why my employment has been terminated... The week prior to going on annual leave I sat down with the managing director and the manager to outline what they wanted from me over the course of the 6months. They said they would come back to me that week with some targets and figures to try and achieve over the course of the next few months, which they didn't. I received an email yesterday to say my contract is now terminated and that I will be paid a week in lieu but will also owe them for any outstanding holidays I've taken... Where do I stand please? I understand I can't.claim.for unfair dismissal. However they've kind of backtracked on what they said to me the week prior to going on annual leave and then terminating my employment without explaining why.
Kier86 - 20-May-17 @ 8:29 AM
Kh - Your Question:
Hi,My probation ended 14/5/17, my employer keeps saying we need to do a review but keeps pushing it back due to workload. He has been happy with my work and keeps saying about future dates and my work (basically that I'll be here long term) but. I need to tell him that I am pregnant fairly soon and am reluctant to without having had a review and confirmation of a permanent position. What can I do?Thanks in advance

Our Response:
If your probationary period has ended with no confirmation or rejection from your employer, you can assume you have passed it successfully.
SafeWorkers - 18-May-17 @ 12:55 PM
Deal - Your Question:
Hired for full-time position done my 6month probation within this 6 month had some time off for medical reasons as surgerys and loss to family member. After 6 months was up I was given another 3 month contract only? Are they allowed 2 do this as I was hired for full-time work

Our Response:
No. If your contract is a permanent position following a probationary period its status cannot be changed to a contract thereafter.
SafeWorkers - 17-May-17 @ 2:33 PM
Hi, My probation ended 14/5/17, my employer keeps saying we need to do a review but keeps pushing it back due to workload. He has been happy with my work and keeps saying about future dates and my work (basically that I'll be here long term) but.... I need to tell him that I am pregnant fairly soon and am reluctant to without having had a review and confirmation of a permanent position. What can I do? Thanks in advance
Kh - 17-May-17 @ 2:10 PM
Delbosco - Your Question:
I'm half way through my probation and wanting to leave.As I work in education, should my notice period be inclusive of summer holidays or only term time? e.g. 1 month period given no later than June to end in July or hand in July as school starts again in September?I am also curious whether I would be entitled to summer holiday pay??

Our Response:
Ths depends on your contract. Some education contracts are term time only etc.
SafeWorkers - 17-May-17 @ 12:24 PM
Hired for full-time position done my 6month probation within this 6 month had some time off for medical reasons as surgerys and loss to family member. After 6 months was up I was given another 3 month contract only? Are they allowed 2 do this as I was hired for full-time work
Deal - 16-May-17 @ 7:23 PM
I'm half way through my probation and wanting to leave. As I work in education, should my notice period be inclusive of summer holidays or only term time? e.g. 1 month period given no later than June to end in July or hand in July as school starts again in September? I am also curious whether I would be entitled to summer holiday pay??
Delbosco - 16-May-17 @ 10:29 AM
Pls.advice if I can end an employee's job before the end ofprobation period and also if I have to keep them on until the notice period as stated in contract say one weeks notice has to be served on them before we part company . Thank you .
Singh - 14-May-17 @ 2:40 PM
Hi,I would like to seek an advice. I am under 6 months probationary periodand now is mythird month working in the company,then my boss asked me to do overtime work on my day off. My question is if I refuse the overtime work does this affect my probationary period? Thank you so much.
Tonia - 5-May-17 @ 4:08 PM
Ez - Your Question:
If you are on a 3 month probation period and you started on 26/01/17 and you are called to a meeting (not being told why) on 28/04/17 to be told that you haven't met expectations so you are now on a 1 week notice, is this acceptable as you have had no probation review meetings during this time and that your probation period ended 2 days before said meeting?

Our Response:
This might depend on when weekends fell etc. You would usually expect a review or appraisal before the probationary period was due to end but not all employers do thsi.
SafeWorkers - 5-May-17 @ 2:33 PM
If you are on a 3 month probation period and you started on 26/01/17 and you are called to a meeting (not being told why) on 28/04/17 to be told that you haven't met expectations so you are now on a 1 week notice, is this acceptable as you have had no probation review meetings during this time and that your probation period ended 2 days before said meeting?
Ez - 5-May-17 @ 12:53 PM
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