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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 22 May 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]
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
KKK - Your Question:
I have been employed at the same job for 3 and a half years, I did my 3 month probabtion period at the beginning of hire. My employer has recently put me back on probabtion, is this legal?

Our Response:
No you cannot be put back on probation unless you have changed jobs within the company. Your rights as an employee still apply.
SafeWorkers - 3-May-17 @ 2:02 PM
June - Your Question:
I was employed with a fixed term contract with the same company for 18 month. After that my my contract was not extended because my company didn't need me anymore. I didn't work for 3 months and then I was called back to work for the same company, same position.They made me sign a new contract with a clause of 6 months probation period.Are they right to do that since I passed my probation period during the 18 months I worked for them?

Our Response:
If there wasa break in employment then you can be made to work a probationary period if your employer feels it necessary.
SafeWorkers - 3-May-17 @ 11:44 AM
I have been employed at the same job for 3 and a half years, I did my 3 month probabtion period at the beginning of hire. My employer has recently put me back on probabtion, is this legal?
KKK - 3-May-17 @ 1:04 AM
I was employed with a fixed term contract with the same company for 18 month. After that my my contract was not extended because my company didn't need me anymore. I didn't work for 3 months and then I was called back to work for the same company, same position. They made me sign a new contract with a clause of 6 months probation period. Are they right to do that since I passed my probation period during the 18 months I worked for them?
June - 2-May-17 @ 4:47 PM
Hi. My job offer letter stated that ' Please also note that your probation will not be passed/confirmed until such time that you are informed of this in writing'. After 9 month, I haven't heard anything and no written confirmation received (not only me-all of the staff who joined last year haven't received it). Until passing the probation, we need to give 1 month notice and after 6 month probation, we need to give 3 month notice to resign. How many month of notice do I have to give them? 1month or 3 month?
Amelia - 29-Apr-17 @ 6:19 PM
Hi i have been working for the same place for a year although up until October 16i was paid through an agency but then taken on my the school on the 3rd Oct they have just terminated my contract as they say I am still in 6 month probationary period which i thought finished on the 3rd April. I was off sick with kidneys stone for 17days in Nov 16 and i had a sickness review when I came back all was fine. They said review end of Jan 17 this never happened. Then an incident happened at work and I slipped a disk in my back so have been off work for 6 weeks. Then received a letter for sickness meeting which I attended on Friday to be told i was no longer employed. Any advice would be great
Cheryl - 22-Apr-17 @ 1:24 PM
Hi there my partner started a new job on october 10th 2016 and his boss was always getting on at him even tho he was the only employee that could do wages and pensions . She let him go yesterday. Is she able to do this at 28 weeks with no notice . Surely 6 months is 26 weeks
Feduppartner - 22-Apr-17 @ 9:43 AM
My partner has been working for her employer for almost 4 months now. They were reluctant to officially tell her that she had passed her probation period, which was 3 months. Recently they lost a large contract which has put the financial situation of the company at risk. As a result they have decided that she must work an additional 3 months probation. To me this seems like a scheme so that they can dismiss her without having to honour her notice period. Is this a legitimate course of action for the company to take?
Colin - 20-Apr-17 @ 3:08 PM
Hi, I wonder if you can help me please?! I've just found out I am 6 weeks pregnant and I have 4 weeks to go until my probation is up. My boss has only ever praised my work and said how well I'm doing but I'm terrified if I tell him beforehand he will just use my probation period fire me (this happened when I was pregnant with my son a few years ago) but I feel like I'm lying by not telling him, what do I do?!
Geordie - 19-Apr-17 @ 12:12 PM
Avril - Your Question:
Hi I was hired at my new job april last year, 2 and a half months later I was told I had cancer I had a mastectomy June 15 , then chemo and radiotherapy during this time the firm had put me on probation indefinitely, I went back to work full time end of Jan this year. Can they put me on probation indefinitely

Our Response:
A firm cannot put you on indefinite probation - also note, the duration of any probation period must not be unreasonable. Question this with your HR department. If the company feels they still need to assess your performance etc, they should put a plan in place with regular assessments etc.
SafeWorkers - 19-Apr-17 @ 11:54 AM
I started working for a company on 4th July 2016 and was put on a 6 month probation period.On February 8th (7 months after employment commenced my manager summoned me to a meeting in a supermarket café and told me"it is making it difficult for me to approve the sign off your probationary period at this time so that an official notice of the completion of your probation can be sent to you in the post".Since then I had 1 other meeting with him and no training, no performance improvement plan, no SMART targets.I was not included in training for new products and given no support to improve my performance.I was left feeling inadequate, depressed and anxious.On 31st March I had no choice but to give my notice in as this was making me unwell.Do I have a case for constructive dismissal as I wouldn't want anyone else to go through what I did.
Donna - 19-Apr-17 @ 10:58 AM
I have recently started as new job which consists of a 6momth probationary period, however since having quite a few bank holidays coming up and gone do I get paid for these? Even though I'm on probationary.
Coxgee_xo - 19-Apr-17 @ 12:31 AM
Hi I was hired at my new job april last year, 2 and a half months later I was told i had cancer I had a mastectomy June 15 , then chemo and radiotherapy during this time the firm had put me on probation indefinitely, i went back to work full time end of Jan this year . Can they put me on probation indefinitely
Avril - 16-Apr-17 @ 8:06 PM
Ive been employed at a company which has a 3 month probational period . Throughout these months i have received minimum or no training despite having to handle numerous systems without any proper documentation . I raised my concerns repeatedly to my line managers about not giving adequate training despite their interview promises that the company will fully train me . 2 weeks now before my probational period ends and not having had any formal catchup with my management despite it being compulsary under the terms of employment , they handed me a notice of extending my probation for 1 month as they find my performance lacking despite not ever training me and my lacking perfomance being due to it . Is there any way i can protect my self as in order to take this job i gave up other options based on the fact that this company promised to provide training that was a large factor in my decision and now has gone completely back on it .
JT - 13-Apr-17 @ 9:31 PM
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