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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 22 Apr 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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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
I was hired by a company on a two year contract with a 3 month probation period I'm now in my third week and been left a voicemail saying that the salary has been lowered different to the contract I signed is this allowed?
Jen - 13-Apr-17 @ 1:42 PM
Thanks for your response.I think actually it's my 2 colleagues in the same role (one of which started on the same day as me), they have decided I am not right for the role, but many of the staff I support are very happy to have me there and compliment my work regularly.My 2 colleagues are very different to me, much quieter and not as friendly or approachable.I organised a meeting recently (to help work more cohesively) and they were very reluctant to attend and gave me a really difficult time at the meeting, I was left very distressed afterwards.Can I take union representation to the meeting to hear my final outcome, or can I arrange a meeting at a date after should I be dismissed?Thanks
Polly - 11-Apr-17 @ 8:25 PM
Polly - Your Question:
I started my role on Sept 12 2016 and was aware I was on a 6 month probation. At my 1 month and 3 month review, no issues were raised and at a meeting with a senior 3 weeks before my probationary period was ceased, was told there were no issues. On 10th March, I was told verbally that my probation was to be extended (we agreed to 6 weeks) in order for me to evidence I could fulfil my role (3 reasons, 2 of which they admitted were company failures) and one to evidence I could work cohesively as part of the small team. Our probation policy states that a probationer must have in writing ahead of the end of their probation period (12th March) that it will be extended or they will have deemed to have passed. I was given it in writing on 15th March. I had no warning that there were any performance issues until I sat in the meeting on 10th March. I have my final meeting on 19th April. If I am unsuccessful, can I appeal or ask for a meeting at a later date with a union rep present? I have lots of evidence to prove I have done more than has been asked.

Our Response:
It's really not easy to prove that your performance was satisfactory in all aspects if your employer does not think you are the right person for the role or have not performed in all round manner. The fact that you've been given time to provide evidence is promising. It's will be difficult to use the extension of your probationary period as a reason to appeal since you have already agreed to it and they meeting was held before the expiry date of the initial 6 month period.
SafeWorkers - 11-Apr-17 @ 2:41 PM
Hi. In response to the comment you made. The 8 performance reviews weren't actual reviews. They were incident and feedback reviews. I did query at the time of having my probation extended why they haven't gave feedback and where I was going wrong from October to January as I hadn't had any at all and I feel it was there duty of care to let me know if I was failing.
Adam - 10-Apr-17 @ 12:52 PM
Adam - Your Question:
Hi. I have just been told my contract has been terminated with immediate effect following on from my extension of probation. My extension to the probation period was actually given to me 2 weeks after my initial period was up. I was told I would have weekly meetings about my performance. In the 12 weeks only 3 were carried out. I was then told yesterday they have terminated my contract due to my performance. In the 9 months I was there I only ever had about 7 performance reviews. Does this seem right? Do they have a duty of care to ensure I pass my probation? If they haven't gave me the relevant training and feedback I'm doomed to have failed. What do you think?

Our Response:
7 performance reviews in 9 months sounds like a lot to us! As long as your employer has followed the correct procedure when following through with this dismissal there's probably not much you can do here. If you want to question the probationary extension you could do so...but should really have done this at the time. Any employer can dismiss an employee if they do not feel their performance is up to scratch.
SafeWorkers - 10-Apr-17 @ 10:54 AM
I started my role on Sept 12 2016 and was aware I was on a 6 month probation.At my 1 month and 3 month review, no issues were raised and at a meeting with a senior 3 weeks before my probationary period was ceased, was told there were no issues.On 10th March, I was told verbally that my probation was to be extended (we agreed to 6 weeks) in order for me to evidence I could fulfil my role (3 reasons, 2 of which they admitted were company failures) and one to evidence I could work cohesively as part of the small team.Our probation policy states that a probationer must have in writing ahead of the end of their probation period (12th March) that it will be extended or they will have deemed to have passed.I was given it in writing on 15th March.I had no warning that there were any performance issues until I sat in the meeting on 10th March.I have my final meeting on 19th April.If I am unsuccessful, can I appeal or ask for a meeting at a later date with a union rep present?I have lots of evidence to prove I have done more than has been asked.
Polly - 10-Apr-17 @ 7:23 AM
I have been with a company for five years, they are currently making people redundant. They have said my job is safe but I will need a new contract they have said on the contract that I'm going to be on probation and not explained what's happened to my holiday entitlement in the last five years, and they have cut my sick leave can they do this.
FatCat - 8-Apr-17 @ 7:17 AM
Hi. I have just been told my contract has been terminated with immediate effect following on from my extension of probation. My extension to the probation period was actually given to me 2 weeks after my initial period was up. I was told I would have weekly meetings about my performance. In the 12 weeks only 3 were carried out. I was then told yesterday they have terminated my contract due to my performance. In the 9 months I was there I only ever had about 7 performance reviews. Does this seem right? Do they have a duty of care to ensure I pass my probation? If they haven't gave me the relevant training and feedback I'm doomed to have failed. What do you think?
Adam - 7-Apr-17 @ 9:07 AM
I started my job as a temp and then they took me on permanent with a six month probation period starting from the date I started temping with the company.My probation period ends in two weeks and then today I got called into the office to tell me that they had complaints about me from other colleagues, they felt I hadn't fitted in with the team and I was aggresive.I disagreed with all their comments and especially the one about being aggresive and asked when this occured, they then said maybe agressive is the wrong. I have no idea where all these comments have come from.I worked well within the admin team, I have never ever been aggresive towards anyone and I have my colleagues with whom I have worked with over the last 6 months to back me up on this.About four weeks ago the admin team was told that when we get a phone call we had to find out more information who was calling to which I took note, I was told today that on 3 or 4 occassions I have just put calls through with no information which is a basic lie.Some calls it is hard to understand people and when I have put the call through I have explained this but I'm not the only one that has done this, my other colleagues have also had the same problem.I feel more annoyed that they have accused me of all these things whenI have honeslty been a hard worker.Three weeks ago I had an appraisal where none of these issues were raised apart from the taking of messages on the phone which I said before I took note.I was then told I had half an hour to clear my desk.
Lucy - 4-Apr-17 @ 9:06 PM
Al - Your Question:
When you say intervention, do you mean reviews? I had one review in the 6 months of my probation, there were feedback given on where I did well and areas I needed to improve on. However, there was little action plan in place and no follow up conversations after that, and at no point did they ever mention they were even considering the possibility of extending the probation. What position do you think I am I and can I refuse the extension out right?

Our Response:
When you expiry date arrives, your employer should review it and tell you whether you have passed or failed. If they do not, do this, then you can assume you passed it and can refuse the extension. The case to refer to is Przybylska v Modus Telecom Limited (Employment Appeal Tribunal – February 2007)
SafeWorkers - 3-Apr-17 @ 2:42 PM
When you say intervention, do you mean reviews? I had one review in the 6 months of my probation, there were feedback given on where I did well and areas I needed to improve on. However, there was little action plan in place and no follow up conversations after that, and at no point did they ever mention they were even considering the possibility of extending the probation. What position do you think I am I andcan I refuse the extension out right?
Al - 31-Mar-17 @ 10:04 PM
Al - Your Question:
I had a 6 months probation period which had passed about 3 weeks ago. Today, I have been told my probation will be extended. Can my employer do that? Is it not automatically deemed passed if the extension was not raised within the initial agreed period?

Our Response:
No they cannot extend your probationary period once its end date has passed without any intervention.
SafeWorkers - 31-Mar-17 @ 2:26 PM
ex-charity-finance-d - Your Question:
I was sacked with no process (no performance review, supervision, targets etc) 7 1/2 weeks into a new job, in my probation period. I had done nothing wrong, had worked exceptionally hard and was being highly effective. However, I had to tell them the bad news - that their free reserves were too low to support the deficit budget they wanted to set - and in the short meeting when the CEO sacked me, he cited that I was 'negative' and had said 'inappropriate things'. Now, over a month later, I still haven't been paid my final salary - they owe me 2 days of my gardening leave notice period and 4.5 days of holiday, as well as some expenses. I've tried chasing them twice by email. What is my next step to get the money I'm owed?

Our Response:
You will need to take legal via an employment tribunal to help with this. Your first step is call ACAS
SafeWorkers - 31-Mar-17 @ 11:29 AM
I had a 6 months probation period which had passed about 3 weeks ago. Today, I have been told my probation will be extended. Can my employer do that? Is it not automatically deemed passed if the extension was not raised within the initial agreed period?
Al - 30-Mar-17 @ 11:00 PM
mark - Your Question:
Just been sacked after 3 months on a 6 month probation period.i had no warning that there was any issue with my performance.i had laser eye surgery which didn't go to well and was sent home sick with poor vision, after 3 hours my boss called me and sacked me (5 days after eye surgery) is this allowed

Our Response:
It may be that there is little you can do about this. For some employers, the probationary period is to assess your performance, how well you fit in with the team and your sickness/absenteeism levels will also be evaluated.
SafeWorkers - 30-Mar-17 @ 12:58 PM
I was sacked with no process (no performance review, supervision, targets etc) 7 1/2 weeks into a new job, in my probation period. I had done nothing wrong, had worked exceptionally hard and was being highly effective.However, I had to tell them the bad news - that their free reserves were too low to support the deficit budget they wanted to set - and in the short meeting when the CEO sacked me, he cited that I was 'negative' and had said 'inappropriate things'.Now, over a month later, I still haven't been paid my final salary - they owe me 2 days of my gardening leave notice period and 4.5 days of holiday, as well as some expenses.I've tried chasing them twice by email.What is my next step to get the money I'm owed?
ex-charity-finance-d - 30-Mar-17 @ 11:07 AM
just been sacked after 3 months on a 6 month probation period. i had no warning that there was any issue with my performance. i had laser eye surgery which didn't go to well and was sent home sick with poor vision, after 3 hours my boss called me and sacked me (5 days after eye surgery) is this allowed
mark - 29-Mar-17 @ 4:02 PM
Sam - Your Question:
I have worked in the same company for almost 5 years. I was offered a promotion and was put onto 6 month probation which is due to end in a month's time.I have heard they have recruited a person for my role in my work place which has me concerned. This was not advertised and I have not received any information during my probation period to say I have any performance issues or am not fulfilling my job role. My 1:1 meetings are few and far between!If they were to Tell me I hadn't passed probation (although they haven't raised any concerns during this period), am I able to claim unfair dismissal due to working in the same company for almost 5 years?

Our Response:
As an employee with more than 2 years' continuous service your still have protection against unfair dismissal despite the "probationary period". Unless there was something written specifically into your contract when you were offered this new position, your employer will have to go through its standard disciplinary process if it were to dismiss you. If you have not had any feedback, targets, reviews, or warnings etc, your case for unfair dismissal might be fairly strong. Ask now...before the 6 months is up...how your employer feels you are doing etc. There may be a perfectly good explanation why someone else is being recruited, such as expansion, re-structure etc.
SafeWorkers - 27-Mar-17 @ 11:11 AM
I have worked in the same company for almost 5 years. I was offered a promotion and was put onto 6 month probation which is due to end in a month's time. I have heard they have recruited a person for my role in my work place which has me concerned. This was not advertised and I have not received any information during my probation period to say I have any performance issues or am not fulfilling my job role. My 1:1 meetings are few and far between! If they were to Tell me I hadn't passed probation (although they haven't raised any concerns during this period), am I able to claim unfair dismissal due to working in the same company for almost 5 years?
Sam - 25-Mar-17 @ 9:16 AM
I have worked for a company for 2 years as a partimer gettin paid by the hour and then i resigned,. After 3 months i came back to work fulltime my question is why do i still have to go through a 3 month probation period ?
mik - 24-Mar-17 @ 3:55 PM
Daza - Your Question:
Hi, I've started a job 6 months ago and was put on a 3 month probation period but my employer extended it for a further a further 3months which I have actually done 6 months and 2 weeks ok probation and he keeps putting me off from having a review and giving me a contract what rights do I have? Can he just lay me off if he doesn't have enough work etc?

Our Response:
Does your contract allow for an extension of the probationary period? If not, then your employer cannot actually extend it. If you have passed the end date of your probationary period without any fail/pass information from your employer, you can assume you have passed it successfully. Your employer should follow normal disciplinary procedures if they then wish to dismiss you.
SafeWorkers - 24-Mar-17 @ 12:32 PM
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