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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Apr 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]
Hi I was working in a club for 8 mouths and I have a phone call from one of the committee to say they can not afford to keep me any more and did not give me a weeks notes or pay me any holiday pay and I just find out they have taken someone alse on is there anything I can do about it someone please help me
Mich19 - 18-Apr-18 @ 10:21 PM
H - Your Question:
I handed my notice in four months into my 6 months probationary period. In my contract it stated that a months notice is required either side but goes on to say that employees not being confirmed in post will be paid in lieu of notice and will not be required to work during their notice period. However my employer insists that this means that if they decide not to employ me then I can leave immediately but as I have made the decision I have to work a months notice. I am leaving because the job made me ill, I used up my sick leave whilst I’ll and still was unwell in return. I am again down with another bug and back pain and simply want to leave. I don’t care if I’m paid or not. I simply don’t want all the red tape of emailing in, making phone calls to be then rung back and be pressured to come in. Can you help please? Thankyou.

Our Response:
This sounds like the wording of the contract is too vague (or is deliberately misleading). We would interpret the phrase "employees not being confirmed in post" as referring to those still in a probationary period. Take your contract with you to Citizens' Advice - they should be able to clarify.
SafeWorkers - 18-Apr-18 @ 2:55 PM
CB - Your Question:
I started my job 12 months ago (which is when I qualified from doing an apprenticeship there). My probation period length and terms and conditions aren’t stated on my contract. After a supervision with management they have stated they want to extend my probation period without a full explained reason and keep me on my current wage whilst all other staff memebers wage has gone up. where do I stand with this? Could you help x

Our Response:
If you were not told about a probationary period and none is mentioned in your contract then you can assume you are not subject to one, nor can your employer "extend" a probationary period unless your contract mentions that is reserves the right to do so. Please speak to a union rep,ACAS or Citizens' Advice for further help.
SafeWorkers - 18-Apr-18 @ 2:48 PM
I handed my notice in four months into my 6 months probationary period. In my contract it stated that a months notice is required either side but goes on to say that employees not being confirmed in post will be paid in lieu of notice and will not be required to work during their notice period. However my employer insists that this means that if they decide not to employ me then I can leave immediately but as I have made the decision I have to work a months notice. I am leaving because the job made me ill, I used up my sick leave whilst I’ll and still was unwell in return. I am again down with another bug and back pain and simply want to leave. I don’t care if I’m paid or not. I simply don’t want all the red tape of emailing in, making phone calls to be then rung back and be pressured to come in. Can you help please? Thankyou.
H - 17-Apr-18 @ 5:20 PM
I started my job 12 months ago (which is when I qualified from doing an apprenticeship there). My probation period length and terms and conditions aren’t stated on my contract. After a supervision with management they have stated they want to extend my probation period without a full explained reason and keep me on my current wage whilst all other staff memebers wage has gone up... where do I stand with this? Could you help x
CB - 17-Apr-18 @ 5:12 PM
I have been extended 3 times on my probation now and the last time it was extended was last week for 3 weeks, how may times can they keep extending my probation at work i have been here for 9 months now
TS - 14-Apr-18 @ 9:25 AM
MissMoore - Your Question:
I was offered a job on a 3month probation period. It started on 28th December. I did not get any words from my employers on 28th march (3 months later) that I did not pass and assumed good feelings for the employment. However 4 days after this trial period elapsed 3rd April I was told I would be given notice with immediate effect and told to accept it as gardening leave ( they would pay me for the week though I'm not there). This was very unusual and I'm feeling totally miffed at the order they did this. Is it possible by elapsing the official 3 months date they are breaking the rules? Hope to get some advice. Thankyou :/

Our Response:
Check your contract for details of anything that relates to the probationary period. You haven't made it clear whether your employer has dismissed you for failing the probationary period or another reason?
SafeWorkers - 9-Apr-18 @ 10:27 AM
I was offered a job on a 3month probation period. It started on 28th December. I did not get any words from my employers on 28th march (3 months later) that I did not pass and assumed good feelings for the employment. However 4 days after this trial period elapsed 3rd AprilI was told I would be given notice with immediate effect and told to accept it as gardening leave ( they would pay me for the week though I'm not there). This was very unusual and I'm feeling totally miffed at the order they did this. Is it possible by elapsing the official 3 months date they are breaking the rules? Hope to get some advice. Thankyou :/
MissMoore - 6-Apr-18 @ 1:26 PM
Kalcop - Your Question:
I just started work and my contract does say ‘6month probation’ but nothing in it states you won’t get the wage rise that’s just been authorised for the others - they even claim people who have been in the company a while but have moved to a different role are ‘on probation’ and won’t get the pay rise!I’ve beentold that the date is in the diary so they can push for me to get it after that!Is this legal?

Our Response:
Pay rises are often at the discretion of the employer and do not always apply to all employees. We don't really have enough detail about your contract to comment on this but it's unusual to receive a pay rise while you're in a probationary period.
SafeWorkers - 4-Apr-18 @ 10:49 AM
hello, i am 7 months and 7 days into my job. my probation was 3 months but i never had a single review or meeting regarding my probation, other a verbal statement from a no longer employed GM saying i had passed. where do i stand in regards to my employment? am i still under probation? thank you Ian
mogwaiz - 3-Apr-18 @ 4:31 PM
I am currently halfway through my training as a colourist in a printing department. I haven't been signed off as competent yet. My employers are trying to make me work on my own without my training officer. I don't feel ready to go it alone. Can I refuse on the grounds of insufficient training?
GARTHY - 3-Apr-18 @ 12:57 PM
I am on sick leave during a four month probation period. My company never fully trained me in all aspects of my job, in fact a key part of the job which everyone else got two days training on, was relegated to a fifteen minute session with someone who had a hangover.. this meant that the busiest time of year for my company resulted in me having a pretty bad stress breakdown. The company was aware that I was being treated for stress and anxiety as it was stated on my medical form that I filled in. My four months probation ended on 28th February, but I have now been off sick since the 1st February. The company now want to have my probation meeting with me even though I am still signed off and still not well. I am not sure how I feel about this. I have mentioned to them in the past how I felt about my lack of training and how it has related to my stress but have had no reply. My manager has called me once in my time off and ignored all my phone calls. All we have done have exchanged sick notes and then awknowledged receipts of them. Not sure what rights I have here, but I do feel a little wronged by the situation
Phil - 2-Apr-18 @ 11:26 PM
I just started work and my contract does say ‘6month probation’ but nothing in it states you won’t get the wage rise that’s just been authorised for the others - they even claim people who have been in the company a while but have moved to a different role are ‘on probation’ and won’t get the pay rise! I’ve beentold that the date is in the diary so they can push for me to get it after that! Is this legal?
Kalcop - 1-Apr-18 @ 10:21 AM
Hi, Im 5 & 1/2 months on my 6 months probationary, the overall performance of mine was great. but i heard from the HR friend of mine that they don't want me to be regular, they're planning to terminate me before i get 6 months. Do i have an assurance to be regular on my company?
Lloyd - 26-Mar-18 @ 8:29 AM
I was giving 3 months probation period i completed 1 month i was 12 mins late n 4 mins late on 2 occasion i was then fired on the second time. Does a company have to give verbal and written warnings before terminating your contract in pribation period
Slash - 21-Mar-18 @ 5:57 PM
I'm on a 3/6 month trial at work and I've been there 6 weeks now. Everybody received a pay rise across the board. I was told I wasn't eligible because I'm on a trial period. I think this violates employment rights. Any information please
Hobbso69 - 21-Mar-18 @ 1:07 PM
Hi there, I was employed nearly 7 months ago by an aviation company. The prbabtionary period in my contract is written as being six months from the 5th of september 2017 which means it expired at the beginning of March. Nowhere in my contract down it state that my probationary period will be confirmed in writing or a formal review must be completed before I have passed probabtion, nor does it say anything about extending probations either. My colleagues who all did the same training as me and therefore started at the same time received letters confirming they had passed their probabtions, but I didn’t. So a day later I emailed asking when you normally receive your letter. On the 9th of March (past my porbabtion ending) I received an email inviting me to a probabtion review meeting nearly 3 weeks after my probabtion should be over. At no point have I had anyone say there are any issues with my performance. And now I have more weeks of worry as the letter says that one outcome of the probabtion review meeting is termination, but they should have done all this before my original probabtion ended, not after!! Do I have any legal leg to stand on?
sean allen - 13-Mar-18 @ 10:39 PM
My line manager will be conducting my 6 month probation period review. However he has only been with the company for 4months and passed his probation. Is he allowed to do this?
Mandy - 12-Mar-18 @ 7:29 PM
I worked for a company and done my 3 months probationary period, during this time I had development meetings with my team manager who told me to keep doing what I was doing, one area I should improve on which I did , getting a mention by the company for doing this. He was happy that I had done this telling me all other areas were fine. At end of probationary period I was taken into office by senior management , told that I wasn't performing and shown the door. Informed them that I was told I was doing ok & was never told that I wasn't, also never offered any extra help or training by the company. basically told you aint performing, cheerio. Is this acceptable or do I have any come back
chrissie1966 - 11-Mar-18 @ 9:20 PM
I am in to my 3 month probation & done my back in I ave sent in a sick note & told them will they still pay me SSP I ave a contract
paulmac - 6-Mar-18 @ 11:14 PM
LooLoo72 - Your Question:
I joined a company on 18th Sep on an initial 3 month probationary period. On 20th December I asked my manager (who is also the Managing Director of the company) if I had passed my probation as I had not heard anything to which he replied yes. In January I returned from leave to be called into the office and handed a letter stating they were extended my probation a further 3 months! I have never taken a day off sick, I am never late and I have had little to no training!Yesterday I received a call from a recruitment agency asking to about the role they have been tasked with filling. Within 30 minutes of this call I received a text from a girl who was temping for this agency who handed over to me that she had been called about my job!I emailed the managing director to ask what was going on. This prompted a meeting with another member of staff (as he is out of the country at the moment).At this meeting I was told that they will not be renewing my contract as they feel I am 'not a good fit for the company'.I have been asked to attend a meeting on Thursday so that I can get 'feedback' from the managing director and also next week to complete a handover to the temp!!My question is can I refuse? In my contract it says 1 weeks notice but I have 4 days holiday owing. Also if I go sick can is there anything they can do?Thanks

Our Response:
Assuming you were taken on for a permanent role with a probationary period, you should seek advice from a legal professional. If you have been told you have successfully passed your probationary period, you cannot be dismissed unless your employer follows correct procedure (i.e as if you were a standard/full employee).
SafeWorkers - 2-Mar-18 @ 1:02 PM
I joined a company on 18th Sep on aninitial 3 month probationary period. On 20th December I asked my manager (who is also the Managing Director of the company) if I had passed my probation as I had not heard anything to which he replied yes. In January I returned from leave to be called into the office and handed a letter stating they were extended my probation a further 3 months! I have never taken a day off sick, I am never late and I have had little to no training! Yesterday I received a call from a recruitment agency asking to about the role they have been tasked with filling. Within 30 minutes of this call I received a text from a girl who was temping for this agency who handed over to me that she had been called about my job! I emailed the managing director to ask what was going on. This prompted a meeting with another member of staff (as he is out of the country at the moment). At this meeting I was told that they will not be renewing my contract as they feel I am 'not a good fit for the company'. I have been asked to attend a meeting on Thursday so that I can get 'feedback' from the managing director and also next week to complete a handover to the temp!! My question is can I refuse? In my contract it says 1 weeks notice but I have 4 days holiday owing. Also if I go sick can is there anything they can do? Thanks
LooLoo72 - 28-Feb-18 @ 10:22 AM
Spych - Your Question:
HI. I've started my current job on 1st of June 2017 and I've been put on the 6 months probation period. During that period ive been complemented on many occasions about my performance. 6 months past nobody mentioned anything about my contract. On the 18th of December I had to ring in sick. Came back next day and got the letter about my probation period being extended till end of January. No reason given. The letter dated 18th of December.Yesterday (23rd of February)I approached my manager and he told me it's likely to be end of march /early April before I get my contract because there are still little things he's not sure about. No formal feedback,nothing written down. I'm stuck don't know what's going on and want to know if it's right.

Our Response:
Ask for a details in writing together with some objectives for your to meet etc. It's probably too late to question it but your probationary period can only be extended if your contract allows it and if the probationary period hasn't already passed (which it had at the time yours was extended).
SafeWorkers - 27-Feb-18 @ 1:53 PM
Dan - Your Question:
I was 4 months in to a 6 month probation. I got asked in to the office to be told I am not suitable for the role and my employment was terminated. I asked for a reason to get told it's in the letter and to leave ur id, phone and keys. The letter stated not suitable for role. I called the next day to perhaps get a valid reason to be told we are not obliged to give any other reason. Is this true or do I have a case for unfair dismissalI am also in a protected group due to disability,

Our Response:
You can fail a probationary period if your employer doesn't feel that you are the right person for the company for the role itself. If however you have a disability that is covered under the Equality Act and you feel this is the reason for your dismissal, you could take action for discrimination reasons. Talk to ACAS.
SafeWorkers - 26-Feb-18 @ 12:02 PM
HI.I've started my current job on 1st of June 2017 and I've been put on the 6 months probation period. During that period ive been complemented on many occasions about my performance.6 months past nobody mentioned anything about my contract. On the 18th of December I had to ring in sick. Came back next day and got the letter about my probation period being extended till end of January. No reason given. The letter dated 18th of December. Yesterday (23rd of February)I approached my manager and he told me it's likely to be end of march /early April before I get my contract because there are still little things he's not sure about. No formal feedback,nothing written down. I'm stuck don't know what's going on and want to know if it's right.
Spych - 24-Feb-18 @ 6:34 PM
Can your employer interview someone for your job role while on probation period they interviewed someone for my job and they offered it him while I stilled worked there I knew nothing of this than at the last day of my review they terminated my contact and two later the new guy started
Chad - 23-Feb-18 @ 7:15 PM
I have been working for someone for just over 5 months, wasn't happy with job an was giving new offer from someone else but needed to start in few days, would I be able to leave my current job so soon if I haven't signed any documents or contracts ( no actual contract has even been written) and not properly told I was even on probation.
George - 23-Feb-18 @ 4:36 PM
I was 4 months in to a 6 month probation. I got asked in to the office to be told I am not suitable for the role and my employment was terminated. I asked for a reason to get told it's in the letter and to leave ur id, phone and keys. The letter stated not suitable for role. I called the next day to perhaps get a valid reason to be told we are not obliged to give any other reason. Is this true or do I have a case for unfair dismissal I am also in a protected group due to disability,
Dan - 22-Feb-18 @ 5:10 PM
TT - Your Question:
I'm 5 months into a 6 month's probation, I have given notice that I will not be staying at the job, I have initially given a months notice, but have now have another job to go to who would like me to start asap, I have so far worked 2 weeks of the months notice, do I need to complete the remaining 2 weeks notice?

Our Response:
If you are contractually obliged to serve a month's notice then yes, you should work the remaining notice period. You could discuss with your existing employer whether they will allow you finish earlier.
SafeWorkers - 20-Feb-18 @ 3:03 PM
Jasper - Your Question:
Hi, my new employer has told me I am not entitled to any annual leave during my 3-month probationary period. Is this right?

Our Response:
Yes this is quite common. You will still be entitled to any leave accrued during this period though.
SafeWorkers - 20-Feb-18 @ 2:35 PM
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