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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 21 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
 

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]
My contract, which I signed, states my probation is 3 months. But I am 5 months in and I've been told that was a mistake and it should be 6 months. I don't know if I have any legal standing on this?
Jules9 - 21-Feb-17 @ 1:26 PM
Bob - Your Question:
My daughter started work in a restaurant in Nov '16. Her contract is for 15 hours, to which she has been given each week, plus odd overtime. This week however she only had 10 hours. Her 3 month probation is up until the end of February and she feels uncomfortable about mentioning this incase they decide to end her employment. Can they give her less hours, then not keep her on if she complains about it?

Our Response:
No, if her contract is for 15 hours then that is what she should be given/be paid for. She should take her contract to her employer and say politely that she isn't getting the hours she is contracted for. Hopefully that will be sufficient to ensure she is given her full allocation of hours, but if not she can take further action on the basis that her contract has been breached.
SafeWorkers - 20-Feb-17 @ 12:41 PM
My brother has started working in a local hotel. He was asked to come for a trial shift, which has turned into a 60 hour week. He still hasn't been offered the job, and yet he's being asked to complete another week to "bond with the team" - what should he do and what are his rights?
DtB - 18-Feb-17 @ 1:38 PM
My daughter started work in a restaurant in Nov '16. Her contract is for 15 hours, to which she has been given each week, plus odd overtime. This week however she only had 10 hours. Her 3 month probation is up until the end of February and she feels uncomfortable about mentioning this incase they decide to end her employment. Can they give her less hours, then not keep her on if she complains about it?
Bob - 18-Feb-17 @ 8:08 AM
I have received a letter from my employer stating the date and ending of my probationary period. But no reason stated why they end my probationary period. I even email them for a reason for this but i havent received any response.until a rumor came that there will be a closure of all branches of our company. Just want to know my rights and my entitlements for any payments as their employees that they end for only 4 mos...?hope for ur answers...
Gei - 17-Feb-17 @ 10:50 AM
Hi, I'm currently working through my 3 month probation at a new job (2 months in) and i've realised i'm not right for this job and I do not want to stay any longer. If I walk out, My employer retains the right to not pay me, correct? I signed the contract a week after I started working. I am not leaving the job due to disciplinary reasons or any other reason apart from simply not being the right person for the job. Within the 3 month probation period my employer retains the right to fire me without notice or plausable reason so does this work the other way too? How can I ensure my employer pays me the money I am owed from the weeks I am already owed?
Cass - 16-Feb-17 @ 4:09 PM
Boyo - Your Question:
Hi I am being made redundant on March 3rd (the firm is being sold) and I am 5 months into my probation period. Luckily I have found another job but they want me to start immediately or they will employ someone who can. I gave my firm one weeks notice but they are refusing to accept this stating that I must work until March 3rd. As my new job wants an immediate start can my current firm make me work until the end?

Our Response:
What was the notice period stated in your contract? You should be able to leave by giving the contracted notice period (often 1 week, if it's within the notice period). You could always leave anyway and hope that your employer will not take further action through the courts.
SafeWorkers - 16-Feb-17 @ 11:32 AM
Tweedledee - Your Question:
Hi I started my new job on 5th January 17, I'm on a 6 month probationary period, since starting I've noticed some carers are doing the underarm lift I know it's not allowed and I have questioned some of the carers when working with them only to be told the manager knows this is happening although I'm not sure if this is true, I recently done an underarm lift and was reported to the manager who would like to speak to me tomorrow, I have always wanted to work where I am now but am afraid of now losing the job I adore. Gloves and sometimes the hoist isn't being used what do I do?

Our Response:
Speak to your employer about this and ask for clarity about what's allowed and what isn't. As long as you stick to the rules yourself, the employer will not be able to use this against you.
SafeWorkers - 16-Feb-17 @ 11:24 AM
Hi. I started my new job as a Senior on 18th july 2016. I applied and became a Deputy Manager on 1st September 2016 with the same company. My 6 month probation review should be the 1st March 2017 but my boss said last month to me that because I didnt fully start my duties as a Deputy Manager until November 2016, they are going to extend probation until May 2017. I have recieved no formal letter of this extension or signed anything to say this is the conversation I have had with my boss. Also, I feel I havent been given the right resources to do my job effectively as I am always covering shifts. Can you please give me advise on this? Thanks
Beti - 16-Feb-17 @ 7:15 AM
Hi I am being made redundant on March 3rd (the firm is being sold)and I am 5 months into my probation period. Luckily I have found another job but they want me to start immediately or they will employ someone who can.. I gave my firm one weeks notice but they are refusing to accept this stating that I must work until March 3rd. As my new job wants an immediate start can my current firm make me work until the end?
Boyo - 15-Feb-17 @ 2:11 PM
Hi I started my new job on 5th January 17, I'm on a 6 month probationary period, since starting I've noticed some carers are doing the underarm lift I know it's not allowed and I have questioned some of the carers when working with them only to be told the manager knows this is happening although I'm not sure if this is true, I recently done an underarm lift and was reported to the manager who would like to speak to me tomorrow, I have always wanted to work where I am now but am afraid of now losing the job I adore. Gloves and sometimes the hoist isn't being used what do I do?
Tweedledee - 15-Feb-17 @ 12:51 PM
Hiya, I had a 3 month review, and due to being out sick for almost 2 weeks they wanted to extend it a month . Since then the manager who took my review has left. I've had my follow up review with a new manager who says my review extention was 2 month, not 1 as was agreed by the previous manager. They can't find the paper work of the first review and I never got a copy due to the manager leaving. I'm not happy signing off on the new review with the extended month as it was not what was agreed. Do I have any standing?
Sorchab - 14-Feb-17 @ 7:51 PM
Ellie - Your Question:
I was on a 3 month probation and after 1 month I had a virus that kept me off work for 1 week. I asked my line manager if everything was going OK when I got back and he said yes. On the last week of my 3 month period, my mother passed away and I rang in to be told by a member of staff to do what I needed to do and we could sort the time off when I returned. 3 days later I rec'd a text from the MD saying that he was sorry to hear about my mum passing away but he had decided to end my employment as the 3 month trial was now over! I txt back to ask for a reason and asked if I could collect my glasses. I had no reply but my glasses and p45 arrived in the post a few days later. Am I entitled to an explanation? Can they just finish you on the day by text especially when off for bereavement?

Our Response:
In general, it reasonable to expect a reason, but there is nothing explicitly that states this should be done at the end of probationary period so many employers do not bother unfortunately. The trial period is to assess all kinds of things including absenteeism.
SafeWorkers - 14-Feb-17 @ 1:52 PM
I was on a 3 month probation and after 1 month I had a virus that kept me off work for 1 week. I asked my line manager if everything was going OK when i got back and he said yes. On the last week of my 3 month period,my mother passed away and I rang in to be told by a member of staff to do what I needed to do and we could sort the time off when I returned.3 days later I rec'd a text from the MD saying that he was sorry to hear about my mum passing away but he had decided to end my employment as the 3 month trial was now over! I txt back to ask for a reason and asked if I could collect my glasses. I had no reply but my glasses and p45 arrived in the post a few days later. Am I entitled to an explanation?Can they just finish you on the day by text especially when off for bereavement?
Ellie - 13-Feb-17 @ 12:43 PM
Alaska - Your Question:
Got sacked on he last day of my probation period of 3 months. My employer shouted me down in the office in front off staff and I tried to appease the situation by responding to his accusations of why, this, that and the other, with no inclination of the outcome or what I had supposed to have done wrong. Naturally I defended my self and suggested his behaviour was inappropriate, unacceptable and unfair to a accuse me. I suggested we discuss privately to avoid further embarrassment for all and by the issue resolved. I was invited into the office with the door closed and was subjected to another verbally assault which I remained quite and listened to his rant. I was instructed to collect my things and leave immediately in the conversation. On leaving I asked if I was sacked and it was confirmed verbally that I was.Meeting with the MD days before, the feedback was all positive and I had been to meet a major customer the same day and introduced by the MD as there new account manager which was not my current role. MD was very complimentary and advised all woud be sorted with my boss in regard a to the work load. I feel very disappointed I the outcome of today and would appreciate some feedback.

Our Response:
To start, could you write a letter to the MD and ask what the policy is and for some reasons for your dismissal if these weren't made clear?
SafeWorkers - 10-Feb-17 @ 2:12 PM
Got sacked on he last day of my probation period of 3 months. My employer shouted me down in the office in front off staff and I tried to appease the situation by responding to his accusations of why, this, that and the other,with no inclination of the outcome or what I had supposed to have done wrong. Naturally I defended my self and suggested his behaviour was inappropriate, unacceptable and unfair to a accuse me. I suggested we discuss privately to avoid further embarrassment for all and by the issue resolved. I was invited into the office with the door closed and was subjected to another verbally assault which I remained quite and listened to his rant. I was instructed to collect my things and leave immediately in the conversation. On leaving I asked if I was sacked and it was confirmed verbally that I was. Meeting with the MD days before, the feedback was all positive and I had been to meet a major customer the same day and introduced by the MD as there new account manager which was not my current role. MD was very complimentary and advised all woud be sorted with my boss in regard a to the work load. I feel very disappointed I the outcome of today and would appreciate some feedback.
Alaska - 8-Feb-17 @ 7:06 PM
Purdy - Your Question:
I stared work in October with a 6 month probabtion period. I've not been given a review as of yet even though y employee handbook says I should get on after 6 weeks and 12 weeks. It's been 18 weeks now. Also they have changed one of rotas which was voluntary and now they say it mandatory- even though this isn't in my contract. Can they do this? I don't think they can without negation and consultation right.

Our Response:
You should ask about your reviews if you've not had them. We can't see the terms of your contract so we can't really comment on the rota change...but usually if you work to a rota, there will be a clause that indicates changes can be made.
SafeWorkers - 7-Feb-17 @ 2:38 PM
Metalik - Your Question:
Hi, In October I was given a contract with a three month probation period after working for the company via an agency for several months. This agreed probationary period was to last for 3 months. In December I was successful in applying for an internal vacancy. There was no mention of the terms or if there was a further probationary period. Now in February, a couple of weeks past the initial 3 month probation period (of which I have received no notification of) I was asked to have a meeting with HR and my section manager. Because of a highlighted exchange of emails which involved me having to reply to confrontational emails sent to me, it was cited that they wish to extend my probationary period for another 3 months. I have requested my employment contract from HR so I am unaware of any clauses to justify a probation extension. I said in the meeting that I wish to challenge this as I was not at fault replying to a confrontational email, I even referred the sender to my line manager. Obviously I am unwilling to engage in any blame taking for the exchange, where do I stand with this please as it looks like I will have to endure a total of 7 months on probation with this employer, I'd like to assess my options. Many thanks.

Our Response:
If you were not formally told about a probationary period, then you can assume one was not in place,especially as your initial probationary period from October has already passed.
SafeWorkers - 7-Feb-17 @ 12:30 PM
I stared work in October with a 6 month probabtion period. I've not been given a review as of yet even though y employee handbook says I should get on after 6 weeks and 12 weeks. It's been 18 weeks now. Also they have changed one of rotas which was voluntary and now they say it mandatory- even though this isn't in my contract. Can they do this? I don't think they can without negation and consultation right.
Purdy - 6-Feb-17 @ 6:19 PM
Hi, In October I was given a contract with a three month probation period after working for the company via an agency for several months. This agreed probationary period was to last for 3 months. In December I was successful in applying for an internal vacancy. There was no mention of the terms or if there was a further probationary period. Now in February, a couple of weeks past the initial 3 month probation period (of which I have received no notification of) I was asked to have a meeting with HR and my section manager. Because of a highlighted exchange of emails which involved me having to reply to confrontational emails sent to me, it was cited that they wish to extend my probationary period for another 3 months. I have requested my employment contract from HR so I am unaware of any clauses to justify a probation extension. I said in the meeting that I wish to challenge this as I was not at fault replying to a confrontational email, I even referred the sender to my line manager. Obviously I am unwilling to engage in any blame taking for the exchange, where do I stand with this please as it looks like I will have to endure a total of 7 months on probation with this employer, I'd like to assess my options. Many thanks.
Metalik - 6-Feb-17 @ 1:55 PM
Hello, I've have recently started a new job, I am now halfway through my probabtionary period and I think I want to leave this new job. I think leaving during probabtion is my best option although I am not entitled to any holidays during this time in order to attend any potential interviews and I therefore feel like I am in a catch 22 situation. Should I ask for a days holiday should the situation arise. I am also extremely nervous to even hand my notice in as the business is very busy and they have been investing heavily (in terms of time) in my training, but I just don't think this job is right for me. Any advice both from a legal perspective and personal experience very welcome. Thanks, Louise.
Louise12 - 5-Feb-17 @ 8:57 AM
Been at a job for 3 months. Want to leave. Havnt signed contract how much notice do I give
paige - 2-Feb-17 @ 7:00 PM
Hi there, I am almost 5 mths into a new job as an Operations manager of a large factory. I am experienced and have worked at this level for some large organisations. My manger was not the guy who hired me (he was moved in the time between him hiring me and me starting) so this new guy inherited me. He is the exact opposite of the original chap and manages people through fear and piling the work and pressure on. I cannot stand the atmosphere with everyone worried for their jobs and it is making me ill,I am sure I am starting to suffer from stress, all the syptoms are there. Therefore I have decided to move on as quickly as possible. My wife has advised me to go to the doctors immediately as she is particularly worried for my health and I am fairly certain he will sign me off with stress / depression. I am obviously worried that if I go that way my boss will immediately let me go and I will be without income. I have read my contract and there is no mention at all of any probationary period, but does state 3 mths notice both ways. I need some advice on my rights and the companies rights before I do anything, can you help ?
Goosie - 30-Jan-17 @ 12:08 AM
Can an employergive you 14 shiftsover 2 weeksas a trialperiodall unpaid
Jay - 27-Jan-17 @ 6:02 PM
I had a contract with a 6 month probation period and was given 1 week notice after 2 months giving unreasonable reasons. Is this legal? I had no consultations or discussions about the role I was doing, I felt this was personal, can I do anything? Thank you
FayB - 25-Jan-17 @ 2:00 PM
I have worked in same form for over 10 years then started a new job 3 months ago I do not think that I am going to pass the 6 month probation. Does that mean I go back to my old post or will I be jobless.
Amie19 - 24-Jan-17 @ 9:29 PM
Hi,I have taken a position with a company and I am still on a 6 month probation period, with a financial tie in if I leave before a two year time frame.My issue is that the contract states that I have to give 3 months notice now in probation and also once probation ends, however during probation the employer can give me just 1 week notice.While I saw this in writing and was not overly impressed with the terms, like so many other employees I needed the job to pay bills etc.Isn't probation meant to be a two way thing, the employee having time to decide if the position is for them the same as the employer deciding if you are right for them.Seems it is all geared towards the employer.I am looking to leave soon once a new job is secured, however am concerned about the employer taking me to court if I cannot work for 3 months notice period.
Matty - 21-Jan-17 @ 1:28 PM
I'm currently on a 12 month contract which, during the interview process and job offer, I was explicitly told would be made permanent once somebody retired. My colleague has retired but they advertised the job and told me I couldn't be made permanent due to my probationary period and will have to wait until my other colleague retired. Is the reason given a legally valid one??? Also. Two weeks after I started in the September, a pay rise was brought in. They had been arguing with the union over the finer details, hence why it was announced in September, but it was effective from April so everyone received the pay rise and a back payment. However, we were told that during probation, we were not entitled to the pay rise but would get it backdated once it was over to the date that we started. I have just found out that I will receive the pay rise once probation is over but not the back payment. As this pay rise was effective from the April before I started and that probation doesn't mean that I'm not 'fully' employed, am I entitled to my back pay? I believe that we should have had the pay rise along with everyone else as it was valid from the April.
Emma - 20-Jan-17 @ 4:13 PM
Hi I was working as a waiter in a hotel, and I was on my 3 month probation period, I thought that everything was going well until one day I get called in for a talk with the manager, and he dismisses me on the day , told me it was my last shift when I finished my shift... I mean is that how this normally is ? I can't help but feel that this was not fair treatment or in accordance to the law, may you please shed some light for me in this subject. How long does your employer have to give you before you are really fired? And can he just do it in one day out of the blue without reason? Thank you very much .
Katie - 18-Jan-17 @ 3:45 PM
Chappers78 - Your Question:
I started a new job just before Xmas, worked all through their busy period.I had to take two days off last week as I was I'll, as it was a customer service role with customer contact and I was vomiting I took two days off so ASD not to pass on the bug.I then got a phone call from the area manager saying my probation period could not continue.Surely I have the right to sick leave when on probation?

Our Response:
This is really at the discretion of the employer. The probationary period is for an employer to assess your performance etc and if you are sick in this time they may feel this is indicative of your future performance.
SafeWorkers - 17-Jan-17 @ 11:47 AM
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