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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 14 Aug 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]
Buck - Your Question:
I started a new job,3 weeks ago,want to leave really bad, would I get paid for the 3 weeks I've worked.

Our Response:
Yes you should always get paid for any work you have done for your employer. If you do not serve your notice period however, your employer can make deductions for that.
SafeWorkers - 14-Aug-18 @ 12:35 PM
I started a new job,3 weeks ago,want to leave really bad, would I get paid for the 3 weeks I've worked.
Buck - 14-Aug-18 @ 11:11 AM
Zar - Your Question:
I have been working at my job I had a 6 month probation period, at 6 months and 11 days I am served with another 3 months probation. 1 Sickness but I had 3 operations I needed not wanted without it could of been serious to my health. 2 Confidentiality but they broke confidentiality by telling me what I suppose to of broke??? It's impossible for me to know this information. They haven't investigated and malious gossip is the 3rd, but that's not true either, that's where they broke confidentiality of another staff member because I knew nothing about what they are telling me, or accusing me of. like I said early it's impossible for me to know the information they accusing me off. My manager doesn't talk to me this is there way of getting rid of me because I put a grievance in. I think this is unfair my probation should of been over 11 days before they served me with another 3 months, they haven't even investigated before they served my probation, where is innocent before proven guilty.

Our Response:
A probationary period is in effective a trial periodwhere your employer assesses you suitability for the role, how you fit in with the company etc. That means if your employer does not feel you are good for the company business-wise etc, they can use the probabtionary period to address this. Your employee rights still exist even though you are on probation, so check that they have followed their own policy in extending the probationary period etc.
SafeWorkers - 7-Aug-18 @ 12:14 PM
Cookie - Your Question:
I had an accident in my delivery van in week 10 of my probation and could not contact anyone to inform them or ask advice as nobody would answer their phones, the next day I went into work as scheduled and had to fill out an accident report over the phone whilst on a break, the van was a right off and the company are claiming through the insurance. I was then informed that I needed to attend the office 3 days later with no reason as to why, on arrival at the office it became clear I was to be dismissed, to protect my future employment I resigned before the official meeting began it was also confirmed that I would have been dismissed.This seems very unfair and I was wondering if this is legal.

Our Response:
As long as your employer followed correct procedures we can't see that there's much you can do about this.
SafeWorkers - 6-Aug-18 @ 11:43 AM
I have been working at my job I had a 6 month probation period, at 6 months and 11 days I am served with another 3 months probation. 1 Sickness but I had 3 operations I needed not wanted without it could of been serious to my health. 2 Confidentiality but they broke confidentiality by telling me what I suppose to of broke??? It's impossible for me to know this information. They haven't investigated and malious gossip is the 3rd, but that's not true either, that's where they broke confidentiality of another staff member because I knew nothing about what they are telling me, or accusing me of. like I said early it's impossible for me to know the information they accusing me off. My manager doesn't talk to me this is there way of getting rid of me because I put a grievance in. I think this is unfair my probation should of been over 11 days before they served me with another 3 months, they haven't even investigated before they served my probation, where is innocent before proven guilty.
Zar - 5-Aug-18 @ 3:23 PM
I had an accident in my delivery van in week 10 of my probation and could not contact anyone to inform them or ask advice as nobody would answer their phones, the next day I went into work as scheduled and had to fill out an accident report over the phone whilst on a break, the van was a right off and the company are claiming through the insurance. I was then informed that I needed to attend the office 3 days later with no reason as to why, on arrival at the office it became clear I was to be dismissed, to protect my future employment I resigned before the official meeting began it was also confirmed that I would have been dismissed. This seems very unfair and I was wondering if this is legal.
Cookie - 3-Aug-18 @ 7:40 PM
Twiggy - Your Question:
I was given 6 months probation period when I started my job Feb 20th 2018 the probation period will be up 20th Aug 2018.I have just received a zero hours contract for that period also asking if I would like to join Nest. should I have received the contract at the start of the probation?I am confused!

Our Response:
A zero hours contract with a 6 months probationary period? Why is it a zero hours contract at all? You should receive a contract/written statement of particulars within 2 months of your starting employment, so yes, you should have received this by April 2018.
SafeWorkers - 3-Aug-18 @ 2:19 PM
I was given 6 months probation period when i started my job Feb 20th 2018 the probation period will be up 20th Aug 2018. I have just received a zero hours contract for that period also asking if i would like to join Nest. should i have received the contract at the start of the probation? I am confused!
Twiggy - 1-Aug-18 @ 1:35 PM
I have worked within the legal sector for over 19 years and at the beginning of June was offered a post with a new firm of Solicitors as a PA to a Partner on a three month probation period.The girl that had been doing the job had become a floater as the role was too stressful but then she remained in the office carrying on working for the fee earner.The other lady in the team has had regular weekly meetings/training sessions with the partner which I have never had.A few weeks after I started I saw some clients in the library of the firm to sign two documents but it became clear that they did not understand what they were signing and I had to spend time with them.There was no room free so I had no choice but to go through documents with them in the library and then had a complaint put in against me and told that I should have told them to come back.I was also told that a client had made a complaint against me but the Partner would not tell me who.Today, after two months in the role, the Partner whom I had been working for came back after a weeks holiday and spent two hours training the other girl in the department.A few weeks ago she asked me to hand over all the completions we had so that this girl could learn in case I was not there for any reason.I got called into the office at 4.30pm with the Partner and the HR lady and told that my work was exemplary, they could not fault my timekeeping but a Solicitor had made a complaint about me, they again would not tell me who and also that because I would not engage in activities outside the organisation they would not continue my three month probation period.I have never had this happen before and have told them that I will carry on with the probation period and then finish so that I can find time to find alternative position.However I do feel that they have used me and have no substantial reason to get rid of me.Has anyone else had this happen to them?
Tedani - 30-Jul-18 @ 8:29 PM
Hi i have worked for the an agency for 7 weeks of which this was during my probation period and was sacked and am waiting to be paid how many holidays am i entitled too if any and should i be paid in full? Also they have charged me something called ppe leaver which i provided my own safety boots and was wondering if there trying to have me over. Thanks
Patto - 27-Jul-18 @ 11:06 PM
smasher - Your Question:
Hi - my Gf´s son is in a trial period at a major insurance company. he is 20 and first job ever. is it legal no to pay him during these 7 weeks. never heard of anythin like that!

Our Response:
It certainly doesn't sound like it. A probationary period might not offer some of the benefits available to post-probationary employees but all employees (including those working a probationary period) are entitled to receive at least the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage (depending on their age) with itemised pay slips etc. He should talk to ACAS, they will be able to advise on your GF's son's potential options.
SafeWorkers - 24-Jul-18 @ 3:01 PM
Joe - Your Question:
I started a company and my contract clearly states probation period 3 months unless extended - In my case I was 5 months into my work/contract and no issues raised or addressed with me regarding performance - If anything the opposite and performance increased month on month to record numbers and absence reduced within the department however there was a fee cap coming in which impacted the companies revenue therefore I was brought in and my probation failed - My boss stated culture differences as a few people had complained about me with the changes I had made - Note nothing official was ever brought to me etc - When I received my termination letter it states poor performance - I feel the dismissal isn't lawful as I never had any reviews, meetings to discuss performance, coaching, performance plans etc other than a meeting invite 1 hour before my meeting in which my boss came into the room with nothing other than himself - No review just basically saying it wasn't working, I advised him my probation had passed and he basically said he had requested a 6 month probation but I advised him that's not what is in my contract - Where do I stand as how can I be dismissed 2 months after my 3 month probation ended? Surely they would have had to invoke a more formal approach ie disciplinary route etc? Currently I'm looking for work and feel I should be compensated by the business for the period I'm out of work due to them not following their own processes - Any advice gratefully received

Our Response:
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. Your employer should therefore, have followed their dismissal procedures for full (non-probationary) employees. Check your employer's disciplinary rules and procedures to ensure they were correctly followed
SafeWorkers - 24-Jul-18 @ 2:07 PM
Hi - my Gf´s son is in a trial period at a major insurance company.. he is 20 and first job ever.. is it legal no to pay him during these 7 weeks.. never heard of anythin like that!
smasher - 23-Jul-18 @ 10:38 PM
I started a company and my contract clearly states probation period 3 months unless extended - In my case i was 5 months into my work/contract and no issues raised or addressed with me regarding performance - If anything the opposite and performance increased month on month to record numbers and absence reduced within the department however there was a fee cap coming in which impacted the companies revenue therefore i was brought in and my probation failed - My boss stated culture differences as a few people had complained about me with the changes i had made - Note nothing official was ever brought to me etc - When i received my termination letter it states poor performance - I feel the dismissal isn't lawful as i never had any reviews, meetings to discuss performance, coaching, performance plans etc other than a meeting invite 1 hour before my meeting in which my boss came into the room with nothing other than himself - No review just basically saying it wasn't working, i advised him my probation had passed and he basically said he had requested a 6 month probation but i advised him that's not what is in my contract - Where do i stand as how can i be dismissed 2 months after my 3 month probation ended? Surely they would have had to invoke a more formal approach ie disciplinary route etc? Currently i'm looking for work and feel i should be compensated by the business for the period i'm out of work due to them not following their own processes - Any advice gratefully received
Joe - 23-Jul-18 @ 8:10 PM
I am on a 6 month probation period at work . I have been there 3 months . I have never been told I have done any wrong . Whilst on a weeks annual leave I received a special delivery letter stating my services are no longer required ... can they do this with no expectation.
Bev - 14-Jul-18 @ 10:25 AM
I am currently 3 months into my 6 probation period. I was informed today the previous employee in my job role (who transferred to another store for a promotion) wants the job back. The option is there for this person to have the same job role(assistant manager), hours and pay as me but in her current store. If I don’t switch stores with her I have been told I will no longer have a job! What are my rights in this situation? Just to add I really enjoy my job, get on well with the staff, work to a high standard and have never had any issues in the employment..opposite to that I have received a lot of praise and compliments about the work I have done so far.
Lm87 - 13-Jul-18 @ 12:14 AM
I started as a cook in a nursing home on 27th Feb 2018 for a probationary 6 month. A letter was issued stating to all new employees.... if work wasn't up to company standard then you could be dismissed or in turn if you wasn't happy could cancel your employment at any time. I have recently come back off holiday but suffered with elbow pain for several weeks. On seeing my doctor he gave me a 2 week sick note starting from 09/07. My employer called me today 11/07 and asked what is happening? Also, I am letting them down badly! At this point I am waiting for a call to collect my car that has been crashed into as at that time I would have been going out to work. She asked if I had a sick note? Then she told me she has other people interested so I said well do what you have to do. I've had 10 Kitchen Assistants since start of employment and the hours I work are not what was agreed initially. I am entitled to a 20 min unpaid break which I've never had. I usually stay over and don't get paid as the KA leaves an hour earlier. Over time has to be authorised. I was told to work faster!
Jen - 11-Jul-18 @ 2:45 PM
My wife quit during her probation period due to the girl training her being derogatory and using abusive language towards her. She only worked 2 weeks and notified her employer that she quit due to incompatibility between her and the trainer. She received her p45 this week 2 months later but has not been paid. What are her rights?
Smudge64 - 8-Jul-18 @ 7:40 PM
I am currently on a probabtion period at work of 12 months i have been working here for a month. Now due to senior management being unproffesional and bullies i would like to hand my notice in and leave. Am i still entitled to my wage for the hours i have worked? Through out the month
Tasha - 6-Jul-18 @ 5:34 AM
My daughter is on a 3 month probation period, her contracted hours are 37.5 per week. For the past 2 weeks she has not been given even half those hours, is this right that her employer can do this?. She has rent etc to pay.
Confused - 6-Jul-18 @ 4:51 AM
Jake - Your Question:
I verbally told my boss I was handing in my notice and asked how long they required me to work but due to me still being in my probationary period she said to work my last two days this week and that be it. So in my letter of resignation do I put that my last day will be July 1st or a week from today still?

Our Response:
Statutory notice is a minimum of one week. What does your contract say? Ask your employer whether they want you to work your notice period and what to put in the letter.
SafeWorkers - 5-Jul-18 @ 10:33 AM
hi I've been working for 8 months and after each month that I've been there rather than offer me a full time contract they extend it each month and tell me that they will come back to me after the extension is close to coming to an end and that there is 90% chance they will offer me a full time contract but after each extension comes to an end all they offer me is another month extension what am I doing wrong I'm confused, I'm always at work an hour before my shift starts so time keeping isn't an issue, I haven't had days off only holidays I've booked so my attendance isn't an issue an I'm told at work that they are impressed with my work and commitment so they can't be issues either the only thing I think it can be is my age I'm almost 47 and I've never experienced anything like this is any work place before where or what am I doing wrong ??
Jay - 4-Jul-18 @ 11:07 PM
larra - Your Question:
Im in a probation period of 1 month. It's my first week, I don't like the job so I want to quit. If I quit now, do I have to finish the probation period, or I can leave any day?Thanks in advance,

Our Response:
You don't have the finish the probation period unless your notice period happens to be the same length. Your employer's required notice period will be stated in your contract or other written information provided by your employer. If there is no contractual notice period,the statutory requirement is 1 week notice.
SafeWorkers - 4-Jul-18 @ 11:23 AM
An employee was caught stealing & because as a supervisor I didn’t report it right away they fired me because it was within my probation period. I feel like I just started training as a supervisor & they left me alone during my shifts without proper training that I shouldn’t have been fired. Can I appeal this?
Bre - 4-Jul-18 @ 4:26 AM
Im in a probation period of 1 month. It's my first week, I don't like the job so I want to quit. If I quit now, do I have to finish the probation period, or I can leave any day? Thanks in advance,
larra - 3-Jul-18 @ 7:21 AM
curious - Your Question:
Hi, My current school is undergoing a restructure and have assured staff that if they are moved to a lower grade they will have 3 years salary protection. I am still within my probationary period, this ends before the restructure comes in to effect. Does this effect my right to the same level of salary protection?

Our Response:
There is no reason why your salary shouldn't be protected too. A probationary period does not mean you do not have employee rights.
SafeWorkers - 2-Jul-18 @ 3:35 PM
I verbally told my boss I was handing in my notice and asked how long they required me to work but due to me still being in my probationary period she said to work my last two days this week and that be it. So in my letter of resignation do I put that my last day will be July 1st or a week from today still?
Jake - 1-Jul-18 @ 3:48 AM
Hi, My current school is undergoing a restructure and have assured staff that if they are moved to a lower grade they will have 3 years salary protection. I am still within my probationary period, this ends before the restructure comes in to effect. Does this effect my right to the same level of salary protection?
curious - 29-Jun-18 @ 2:59 PM
Chris - Your Question:
I have had a probationary period extension so after a period of 6 months I had an indication of 1 extra month will be added ,i fell ill during this extension period and was signed off for a period of 6 weeks which I had a meeting with my line manager about a return to work plan within which it was discussed that the extension will be extended as due to a mental health issue I was unable to complete full days, so in the first 2 weeks of this extension I was working from home for 4 of my 8 hours a day to get back into the role advised by my GP on a fit note then after another 2 weeks of a phased return to work had a meeting and was terminated being that the time ive spent at the company I have failed the probation but am fully capable to carry out the role. What are my options if any?

Our Response:
Unfortunately there isn't much you can do about this. The probationary period is usually used to establish your suitability to working within the company;this might include andassessment of your attendance, your performance in the role, your ability to engage with colleagues, clients and so on. As long as the company followed the correct procedures and there was no discrimination involved (check this out if you have a mental illness/disability) then there is no real redress.
SafeWorkers - 29-Jun-18 @ 10:57 AM
I have had a probationary period extension so after a period of 6 months i had an indication of 1 extra month will be added ,i fell ill during this extension period and was signed off for a period of 6 weeks which i had a meeting withmy line manager about a return to work plan within which it was discussed that the extension will be extended as due to a mental health issue i was unable to complete full days, so in the first 2 weeks of this extension i was working from home for 4 of my 8 hours a day to get back into the role advised by my GP on a fit note then after another 2 weeks of a phased return to work had a meeting and was terminated being that the time ive spent at the company i have failed the probation but am fully capable to carry out the role. What are my options if any?
Chris - 27-Jun-18 @ 2:01 PM
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