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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 19 Oct 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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[Add a Comment]
Hi, I started working in a place 3rd of this month, and I left the 16th without giving notice because of an argument with the manager. Today I went there in a peaceful way asking when I am going to get paid, to what I was responded that I may not get paid since I left without notice and I signed a contract that says that I need to give 2 weeks of notice. But since I have 2 months of probation, and in the first month I have heard that there is no need of any of the parties to give any notice to rescind the contract, is it legal for them not to pay me for the hours I have worked there? And, if they refuse to pay me, which is the way I should proceed to take it legal and get paid? Thank you!
pdd - 19-Oct-17 @ 1:32 AM
I have been at the job for nearly 6 month and have have been pretty much told that its unlikely that I will pass my probation... But wanted to know if i am entitled to holiday pay? I work term time and my pay was pro-rota.
Sunny - 15-Oct-17 @ 8:05 AM
Kayla - Your Question:
I started in my new job and continued to work there fine for 6 weeks I have now been off for 6 weeks due to ibs whicj I have been paid by ssp and my doctor has signed me of for a fuether 3 months will that's carry on as normal or could it be stopped not sure what was in my contract Appreciate if anyone can give me some advice

Our Response:
Statutory sick pay is paid for up to 28 weeks. It'sstatutory amount so your contract is not relevant unless you employer pays sick as well.
SafeWorkers - 13-Oct-17 @ 3:12 PM
I started in my new job and continued to work there fine for 6 weeks I have now been off for 6 weeks due to ibs whicj i have been paid by ssp and my doctor has signed me of for a fuether 3 months will that's carry on as normal or could it be stopped not sure what was in my contract Appreciate if anyone can give me some advice
Kayla - 12-Oct-17 @ 8:55 PM
I started a new job on a 3 month trial have been there 7wks. The manager called me into the office to tell me that he had no complains about my work but working in a residential home is not me as im to hospitalised and that i was to leave immediately. I still had 5wks left of my trial period can he do this.
Carrie - 11-Oct-17 @ 3:21 PM
Vence - Your Question:
He eventually told me he wants to give me a 3 months fixed term contract as he's planning on shutting down the company in 3 months. The salary and the working hours are the same of my current permanent contract. I was already looking for another job so I actually don't mind too much, but I was wondering if I'll be able to get unemployment benefits in case I can't find anything after the 3 months? or I am eligible to that only if I get fired? and is it legal for him to offer me such a short term contract after a permanent one? the only thing that will change would be the working place.

Our Response:
You should seek advice fromJobcentre Plus about your eligibility for jobseekers allowance in this instance.
SafeWorkers - 11-Oct-17 @ 12:58 PM
I started work earlier this year in a permanent position but with a six month probation period. No handover, reports, documentation was provided, despite repeated requests. The team had not had a manager in place for at 3 months, prior to my arrival and had been left to get on with the work. The environment was very unwelcoming with major disharmony within the team, with one particular staff member on the receiving end of unprofessional behaviour by another i.e. Rude communication, being spoken down to, being excluded from certain meetings but being expected to have a full understanding of the project the team had been tasked to deliver on.Also having to manage another under capability, which had been instigated by the same member that would discredit and undermine the persons work. Also openly expressing hatred. The time lacked unity, harmony and was dysfunctional concerning being able to work together without obvious division. I had not been fully set up to access systems to aid my work, with this being delayed and only being fully granted just this September. Yet during my fourth month probation meeting, my manager blamed me for not pressing hard enough for the systems to be put in place. No consideration was given that these systems should have been set up and avail enough at least within the first week of my starting. In addition to this the report was littered with inaccuracies. I have also had to manage a staff member who has been at best non compliant with policies and procedures around attendance, time keeping, sickness reporting and behaviour. At worst argumentative, refusing to attend return to work meetings and dictating what meeting to attend. I was due to attend my five month probation meeting recently but fell ill. I was signed off for two weeks with acute stress reaction which culminated in my not being able to attend the meeting. On sending the doctor's certificate in to my manager, I get a response indicating the decision to terminate my appointment, giving me the right to appeal, while on sick leave. The decision was reached despite my not being able to attend the meeting and in absence of my response to the fourth month report. Although I will be contesting and appealing the decision, the whole experience has been very negative, with my manager coming across as being biased and having a preconceived opinion filed by misinformation.
Pat - 10-Oct-17 @ 4:03 PM
He eventually told me he wants to give me a 3 months fixed term contract as he's planning on shutting down the company in 3 months. The salary and the working hours are the same of my current permanent contract. I was already looking for another job so I actually don't mind too much, but i was wondering if I'll be able to get unemployment benefits in case I can't find anything after the 3 months? or I am eligible to that only if I get fired? and is it legal for him to offer me such a short term contract after a permanent one? the only thing that will change would be the working place.
Vence - 10-Oct-17 @ 1:46 PM
Vence - Your Question:
Hi, I've been working for a company (start up) for a year now, with a permanent contract with a one month notice. My employer has now offered me a fixed contract of one year. In the Notice section of the contract it says:- Following the successful completion of one month of your probation period or employment you are entitled to the following notice before termination:one week’s notice up to two years’ service- The minimum notice you must give us if you want to leave is one month.Does this make any sense? I have to say he's Chinese and doesn't speak English well, and from what I have seen know very little about contracts and employees' rights.I know the statutory notice is one week, but can he extend the notice period to one month for a fixed contract of one year? I guess he can write whatever he wants, but is this common or considered fair?Thank you

Our Response:
If you were taken on on a permanent contract, why is now offering you a one year contract? An employer can choose whatever notice period they like and one month is not deemed unreasonable. It's also quite common for an employer to give less notice than the period they require you to give them. Once you've been employed by the employer for two years however the minimum notice rises to two weeks. This is followed by an additional week's notice for each further complete year of continuous employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
SafeWorkers - 6-Oct-17 @ 2:22 PM
Hi, I've been working for a company (start up) for a year now, with a permanent contract with a one month notice. My employer has now offered me a fixed contract of one year. In the Notice section of the contract it says: - Following the successful completion of one month of your probation period or employment you are entitled to the following notice before termination: one week’s notice up to two years’ service - The minimum notice you must give us if you want to leave is one month. Does this make any sense? I have to say he's Chinese and doesn't speak English well, and from what I have seen know very little about contracts and employees' rights. I know the statutory notice is one week, but can he extend the notice period to one month for a fixed contract of one year? I guess he can write whatever he wants, but is this common or considered fair? Thank you
Vence - 6-Oct-17 @ 11:04 AM
Nicola - Your Question:
Hi, I started working for a company as a freelancer and then after 3 months was taken on permanently (3 days a week). My 6 month probation period finished on 1st September but I have not been informed or had a meeting about it. My notice period in my probation was 1 week but after the probation period goes to 4 weeks. The company is dreadful and I am planning on resigning in 4 weeks - will I need to give them 1 week or 4 weeks notice. Have I effectively passed my probation? Also, where do I stand if they wanted to extend it after the date has passed? Thank you.

Our Response:
If you have not heard anything, you can assume you have passed your probationary period successfully and your contractual notice period will apply.
SafeWorkers - 2-Oct-17 @ 3:08 PM
Kate - Your Question:
If there is no specific mention of a probation period in the employment contract, is there a general expectation that there is one in place? I have not yet started my employment and tried to resign and told my notice is not sufficient. However only 1 weeks notice is required during the probation period. As the probabtion period is both for employees and employers, just wanting to know if there is no specific mention of it in the contact is it still applicable as a result of standard expectation in UK work environment?

Our Response:
If there is no mention of a probationary period in your contract, you don't have one, your contractual notice period will apply.
SafeWorkers - 2-Oct-17 @ 12:19 PM
Hi, I started working for a company as a freelancer and then after 3 months was taken on permanently (3 days a week). My 6 month probation period finished on 1st September but I have not been informed or had a meeting about it. My notice period in my probation was 1 week but after the probation period goes to 4 weeks. The company is dreadful and I am planning on resigning in 4 weeks - will I need to give them 1 week or 4 weeks notice. Have I effectively passed my probation? Also, where do I stand if they wanted to extend it after the date has passed? Thank you.
Nicola - 29-Sep-17 @ 8:58 PM
Luis Calote - Your Question:
HiI have a 6 month probation period and I am about to complete my 4th month. I realised that I don't like to work there anymore, but I have in my contract that I need to give 1 month notice.Does it apply during my probation period also?

Our Response:
Yes, you should give whatever notice is required by your employer.
SafeWorkers - 29-Sep-17 @ 2:36 PM
If there is no specific mention of a probation period in the employment contract, is there a general expectation that there is one in place? I have not yet started my employment and tried to resign and told my notice is not sufficient. However only 1 weeks notice is required during the probation period. As the probabtion period is both for employees and employers, just wanting to know if there is no specific mention of it in the contact is it still applicable as a result of standard expectation in UK work environment?
Kate - 29-Sep-17 @ 10:16 AM
Hi I have a 6 month probation period and I am about to complete my 4th month. I realised that I don't like to work there anymore, but I have in my contract that I need to give 1 month notice. Does it apply during my probation period also?
Luis Calote - 28-Sep-17 @ 9:01 AM
RCM25 - Your Question:
I have completed my probation period of 3 months and now after an additional 3 months on the job they want to put me back on a 1 month probation is this allowed?

Our Response:
No. If you have successfully passed your probationary period you cannot be put back on to one. If your employer is not happy with your performance, they should follow their usual (disciplinary) procedure.
SafeWorkers - 27-Sep-17 @ 10:03 AM
igle pigle - Your Question:
Hi,I am 4 months in my employment. Probation period is 6months. I had my 3 months review, which was recorded and there were no issues with my performance. Due to circumstances at home and huge workload, I had two days off sick, got a fit note from doctor to reduce hours and workload. Since my employer couldn't accommodate reduced hours, I have declared myself fit to continue my normal hours and workload. This all happened during 1,5 weeks after my 3 months probation review. I have been issued a letter asking me to attend a probationary review meeting, because they have a numerous of concerns regarding my performance. One of the concerns is I failed to do the task for over a month. This wasn't mentioned in the other meeting. What rights do I have? Can they go back on the first meeting? Thank you

Our Response:
We don't know enough about your performance etc to comment on this, but your employer is entitled to take any sickness absence into consideration when assessing your performance and ability to do the job.
SafeWorkers - 26-Sep-17 @ 11:03 AM
I have completed my probation period of 3 months and now after an additional 3 months on the job they want to put me back on a 1 month probation is this allowed?
RCM25 - 26-Sep-17 @ 8:45 AM
Hi, I am 4 months in my employment. Probation period is 6months. I had my 3 months review, which was recorded and there were no issues with my performance. Due to circumstances at home and huge workload, I had two days off sick, got a fit note from doctor to reduce hours and workload. Since my employer couldn't accommodate reduced hours, I have declared myself fit to continue my normal hours and workload. This all happened during 1,5 weeks after my 3 months probation review. I have been issued a letter asking me to attend a probationary review meeting, because they have a numerous of concerns regarding my performance. One of the concerns is I failed to do the task for over a month. This wasn't mentioned in the other meeting. What rights do I have? Can they go back on the first meeting? Thank you
igle pigle - 23-Sep-17 @ 3:05 PM
Billy - Your Question:
I have been in my job for nearly six months. I had a probation period of three months and my contract says that the company can extend probation and that I will only have passed probation when I get confirmation in writing.My director and manager have both told me that I have passed probation but haven't written to confirm, neither have they told me that my probation period has been extended.Where do I stand? I am not getting the full benefits package and am on a short notice period.

Our Response:
If you were told that your probationary period was 3 months and it has not been officially extended then you can assume you passed it successfully.
SafeWorkers - 20-Sep-17 @ 11:51 AM
Charlie - Your Question:
Hi, I am in a 6 month probation which is due to end on 10th October. I am going on annual leave from the 9th-27th then starting maternity leave on the 28th. When starting the job I was told they hold back 2 weeks pay that is then paid once you pass probation or leave(either quit or get fired). As I will technically still be in probation whilst on maternity they have said they will not pay me the 2 weeks pay until I return and either pass probation or leave the company. When I questioned them holding back 2 weeks pay for potentially another year they said they had done me a favour by letting me take all of my annual leave before my maternity as I had only accrued 7 days as holiday year runs up until April. Any advice on this please?

Our Response:
Not paying you for the money you have earned is questionable (you need to check this with an employment law specialist), but we think employers can make you complete your probationary on returning from maternity leave. You have taken more than your accrued holiday entitlement but while you're on maternity leave you're effectively still employed so your leave entitlement would still be there to be accrued/used at the end of the maternity leave period. It's an unusual and complex position to be in, we'd advise you to seek additional help from a professional to whom you can supply all the pertinent information that we haven't been furnished with.
SafeWorkers - 20-Sep-17 @ 10:32 AM
I have been in my job for nearly six months.I had a probation period of three months and my contract says that the company can extend probation and that I will only have passed probation when I get confirmation in writing. My director and manager have both told me that I have passed probation but haven't written to confirm, neither have they told me that my probation period has been extended. Where do I stand?I am not getting the full benefits package and am on a short notice period.
Billy - 19-Sep-17 @ 2:27 PM
Hi, I am in a 6 month probation which is due to end on 10th October. I am going on annual leave from the 9th-27th then starting maternity leave on the 28th. When starting the job I was told they hold back 2 weeks pay that is then paid once you pass probation or leave(either quit or get fired). As I will technically still be in probation whilst on maternity they have said they will not pay me the 2 weeks pay until i return and either pass probation or leave the company. When I questioned them holding back 2 weeks pay for potentially another year they said they had done me a favour by letting me take all of my annual leave before my maternity as I had only accrued 7 days as holiday year runs up until April. Any advice on this please?
Charlie - 18-Sep-17 @ 6:16 PM
Galia - Your Question:
I'm starting a job in the UK and it has the 3 month probation period. I believe this period will be paid with the minimum wage?Thanks

Our Response:
The probationary period will be paid at whatever rate your contract states it should be. All UK employers have to pay the minimum wage to its employees.
SafeWorkers - 18-Sep-17 @ 10:52 AM
I'm starting a job in the UK and it has the 3 month probation period. I believe this period will be paid with the minimum wage? Thanks
Galia - 15-Sep-17 @ 9:46 AM
Mitch - Your Question:
I have just started a new job on a 3 month probation, I've just found out 4 weeks in, she advertised on indeed my job. When I queried it, her response was I didn't tell her I get aching knees, as both herself and the previous cook are suffering she wants someone who won't go sick! My last job I worked 9yrs, 10 hr shifts with no sick days. Can she just sack me and should she not have told me she was looking to replace me?

Our Response:
It doesn't sound at all fair but unfortunately a claim for unfair dismissal can onlybe made if an employee has worked for an employer for 2 years or more. Wrongful dismissal is when an employer is in breach of contract, which probably doesn't apply in the case of failing a probationary period etc. Try reassuring her about your employment record and that while you may have aching knees, they have never kept you off work etc.
SafeWorkers - 14-Sep-17 @ 1:01 PM
I have just started a new job on a 3 month probation, I've just found out 4 weeks in, she advertised on indeed my job. When I queried it, her response was I didn't tell her I get aching knees, as both herself and the previous cook are suffering she wants someone who won't go sick! My last job I worked 9yrs, 10 hr shifts with no sick days. Can she just sack me and should she not have told me she was looking to replace me?
Mitch - 13-Sep-17 @ 8:24 AM
My employer constantly changes the schedule, sometimes without giving you any notice. She asked me to work 2 shifts today & I showed up for both shifts on time. She then told me she didn't need me then after all & sent me home, twice today! Is there a law stating that if you show up for work your manager asked you to show up for & they then sent you home, that they have to still pay you for any time, such as 4 hours? For your trouble & no notice?
Scissortails - 25-Aug-17 @ 3:31 AM
Slim- Your Question:
My daughter was offered a job which she started on Monday this week and during a torrid 4 days where the management were incompetent and clueless she along with other members of staff unceremoniously sacked by telephone last night !!!Am I correct in thinking one weeks notice is required ?? Where are the workers rights !??

Our Response:
There is no right to a minimum notice period for employees that have been employed for less than one month.
SafeWorkers - 21-Aug-17 @ 1:58 PM
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