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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Aug 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Probationary Period Employer Dismissal

A probation period is a trial period of employment. The employee is employed subject to satisfactory completion of this trial period.

Why have a probationary period?

Employers will often carry out an application and interview process. However you can't always tell from an interview how an employee will do in a job in practice, or whether they will fit in with an existing team. Employers therefore have a "trial period".

A probation period will commonly be 3 to 6 months, though they can be as little as 1 week in short-term contracts. The duration of any probation period must not be unreasonable. Performance reviews are common during this period, as they give both the employee and employer an opportunity to discuss any concerns and address these (for example with additional targeted training). Regular formal reviews are not however compulsory.

Reader's Question:

"I was employed on a maternity contract for a maximum period of 12 months, the lady whose post I was covering decided not to return to work and I was confirmed in the post on a permanent basis 1 month prior to the expected end of my maternity cover contract.

I have received my new contract and have been asked to enter into another probationary period. I am unsure if I should agree to this as I have already successfully completed a probationary period as set out in the terms of my previous fixed term contract."

If you do not think that a probationary period is necessary, speak to your employer. It may be that you have simply been given a standard contract. A probationary period gives you less security, but if you already perform the role well, you should pass with flying colours!

Rights during probation

Your statutory rights during employment start on the first day of employment, regardless of any probation period. However your contract may give you less favourable terms during a probationary period than after the period has finished. For example:
  • A shorter notice period (for both you and your employer)
  • No entitlement to free private medical care
  • No entitlement to death in service benefit

Any less favourable terms must not infringe your general statutory employment rights which include:

  • Right to be paid minimum wage
  • Right to holiday pay
  • Right to itemised pay statement
  • Applicability of the working time directive

Readers' Question:

"If an employer gives you a 6 month probation and then after 9 months you have still not had your 6 month probation review does that mean you have passed it or not?"

If you are not told during your probation period that it is to be extended or that you have failed your probation, you are deemed to have passed.

"I'm 3 months into my probationary period and am not happy. I've not yet had a contract of employment but in the staff handbook it says I have to give 2 months' notice. I have resigned and they tell me they are holding me to that. Could they sue me if I only give one month's notice?"

You must also abide by the relevant contractual terms, even during your probation period. If you do not, your employer could claim damages if they lose work or have to pay other employees a higher rate of overtime to cover work during a period that you should have been working. Any such claims are rare however.

Extending your probation period

If your employer has stated that they want to extend your probation period, check your employment contract. This should state under what circumstances your probationary period can be extended, and for how long. Your employer can only extend your probation period if your employment contract says that they can extend it in the particular cited circumstances (e.g to have more time to assess your performance).

Reader's Question:

"I'm 7 weeks into my 13 week trial period at work and am going out on sick leave. Can my new employer let me go after my 13 weeks if I'm still out on sick leave?"

This is a scenario in which an extension of your probation period is likely, as your employer has not yet had chance to fully assess your performance in the role.

Your employer cannot extend your probationary period for "protected reasons". These include:

  • Your ethnicity, religion or cultural background
  • Your gender, age or marital status

If your contract does not allow your employer to extend your probation period, they may wish to change the contract. You do not have to agree to change your contract. If you think that the proposed changes are unfair or less favourable to you, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau for free advice about your options. (Find your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau office, including those that give advice by email, at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/getadvice).

Dismissed during probation

Just because you were in your probation period does not automatically make your dismissal fair. The usual test still applies: Did your employer act reasonably in all the circumstances?

Your employer has a duty to take reasonable steps to assist employees such as giving them adequate training to enable them to carry out their job. If you are dismissed on the basis of your performance, you would normally expect a reasonable employer to have discussed your performance with you on a prior occasion and given you the opportunity to try and do better.

You cannot claim for unfair dismissal during your probationary period as you will not have worked the relevant qualifying employment period. However you can still claim for:

  • Harassment
  • Dismissal due to "whistle-blowing"
  • Dismissal due to a "protected reason"/discrimination

Reader's Question

"I've started a new job on 3 months probation period, which is almost over (1 week) and have found out I'm pregnant. I have told my boss the date I'd like to work up until before maternity leave. He said he's not going to extend it and wouldn't give me a reason why and said that he doesn't have to. Is this the correct way to treat an employee?"

Potentially, you could take your former employer to an Employment Tribunal and claim damages. However you will need to have evidence relating to why you were dismissed. (e.g The fact that you are of an ethnic minority and did not get on with your former employer will not be enough. If you can evidence that your former employer said something racially discriminatory, or that all other employees of a different ethnicity with the same review scores are being kept on, that would be more relevant evidence.)If you think that you have been unfairly dismissed during your probation period, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau about what you can do.

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[Add a Comment]
Slim- Your Question:
My daughter was offered a job which she started on Monday this week and during a torrid 4 days where the management were incompetent and clueless she along with other members of staff unceremoniously sacked by telephone last night !!!Am I correct in thinking one weeks notice is required ?? Where are the workers rights !??

Our Response:
There is no right to a minimum notice period for employees that have been employed for less than one month.
SafeWorkers - 21-Aug-17 @ 1:58 PM
My daughter was offered a job which she started on Monday this week and during a torrid 4 days where the management were incompetent and clueless she along with other members of staff unceremoniously sacked by telephone last night !!! Am I correct in thinking one weeks notice is required ?? Where are the workers rights !??
Slim - 18-Aug-17 @ 10:18 AM
My contract states that "During your probationary period the company's probationary guidelines will apply".the probationary guide for managers was not followed to the latter with performance reviews timescales & targets..plus documentation to be used. They have dismissed me on performance & behavior and even after my appeal they stated this is just a guide for managers and not a policy..is this a breach of contract?
Smudge - 30-Jul-17 @ 9:12 AM
Tommy - Your Question:
I have worked 8 months into a 6 month probation but not had confirmation of extension at 6 months only verbal with no specific targets set. I was dismissed on behavioral but nothing factual or investigated. I received no regular reviews with targets or support. My performance in my role to do my job was excellent. I was the youngest on the team and I believe this impacted me at not being successful in my probation. I've appealed as advised by my union, can I then proceed to a tribunal or contact a higher manager within the business to discuss & bring to their attention?

Our Response:
It's difficult to claim unfair dismissal when you have not been with an employer for two years or more. If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your age, you may be able to take further action. Likewise if your employer is dismissing you on the basis of "failing your probation" - you may be able to argue that since your 6 month probation date had passed, that you could assume you had successfully passed your probation period. The case of Przybylska v Modus Telecom Limited is a precedent for you in that instance.
SafeWorkers - 27-Jul-17 @ 2:30 PM
I have worked 8 months into a 6 month probation but not had confirmation of extension at 6 months only verbal with no specific targets set. I was dismissed on behavioral but nothing factual or investigated. I received no regular reviews with targets or support. My performance in my role to do my job was excellent. I was the youngest on the team and I believe this impacted me at not being successful in my probation. I've appealed as advised by my union, can I then proceed to a tribunal or contact a higher manager within the business to discuss & bring to their attention?
Tommy - 25-Jul-17 @ 6:34 AM
Hi please could you tell me if this is legal? I started a CNC company and 4 months later a better job came up in the same place. I have the right set of skills for the role without a doubt. So ability is not the issue. I wastold the salary was 23000 after a 3 month trial and if I was capable the job was mine, I smashed the interview my supervised told me. So after 4 months still on my previous wage and different working patterns and me asking the manager when I'll be getting the salary offered, i was told that because I wasn't sure whether I could run the entire show when my new trainer/co worker was away I wouldn't get the salary instead I go up a few grades instead. Which won't make a significant difference to my life. None of this was discussed before the trial period ended or has there been any written statement/contracts, which I've been asking for repeatedly. My trainer has been there 11 years and seen several systems stacked on top of each other that I've had to learn in 3 months which I'm smashing by milestones. So can they add new goalposts after the verbal contract at interview despite me achieving the original targets?
Scottyreplay - 15-Jul-17 @ 6:51 PM
I want to resign from my job whilst still in my probationary period. My contract states 4 weeks notice on either side subject to a successful probationary period of 3 months. There is no mention of notice period during probationary period. I want to give one week's notice. Will that be allowed under the terms of my contract? I work 2 days per week. Thanks in advance for advice.Ishould add that my employer is a law firm.
DK - 13-Jul-17 @ 8:31 PM
I have been working for 2 months now and am not completely happy.I am still in my probationary periodAlthough they do not specify the notice period they are required to give me, my contract states I have to give them 6 weeks notice.However, I have been offered a job that I need to take up in two weeks.Are they allowed to hold me to my notice period.I was not advised about my contract and did not notice the difference in notice periods when signing.
Kevin - 11-Jul-17 @ 1:17 PM
Hello! I worked in a Bank with a six month contract and in the end of it they offered a permanent contract but with 6 months probation period. Although I complained they didn't change this. At the beginning of the contract there is 1. COMMENCEMENT. Your employment under this agreement will commence on 1st April 2017. Your employment with X counts as part of your period of continuous employment with the company and your employment for the purposes of the UK's Employment Rights Act 1996 therefore commenced on 3rd October 2016. My question is: What about the probation according this commencent? The contract period of 6 months can be count as my probation period so it's finished?HR never answered.
piperia7 - 10-Jul-17 @ 11:22 PM
Hello... I was contracted by a company, the agreement was as a part time, only this is not clearly written into the contract. It only shows the hourly rate. I am now in my second month probation period and I want to resign as my boss all of a sudden is very sarcastic, ironic, rude, insulting and never pays me on time. Since I am still in the probational period the contract says and I quote: "Notice period to be given by the employee to the employer - one month's service to the satisfactory completion of your probational period - one week's written notice to the employer." Does 1 week apply to a part time agreement as well? 20 hours per week.TIA
Shandala - 8-Jul-17 @ 5:34 PM
My probation ended on the 4th July and no one has spoken to me about it. Can it still be extended or terminated and if so, how long is the window until I am deemed passed?
Global Jones - 7-Jul-17 @ 9:15 PM
Tasha83 - Your Question:
I was let go two weeks into a three months probation period. I hadn't been able to show my abilities as the shop hadn't opened for clients,but I was told they didn't think I was capable of working there,the beautician was given training because she wasn't up to their standards but I went into work and told that morning I was being given a weeks paid notice. But I've since been paid and only got paid for the two weeks I'd worked and never got the paid notice. I contacted them about it and was told they'd call me but haven't heard from them nor have they replied to my email.What are my rights? Do they have to pay me notice (i know they said they would so surely they can't go back on their word?) But by law do they have to pay notice? I also read that written notice should be given for a meeting, unlike what happened to myself and I also never received the email about ending my contract with them like they told me I'd get.

Our Response:
The minimum notice period is one week, so you should be paid for this even if you were not allowed to work it.
SafeWorkers - 7-Jul-17 @ 12:58 PM
I was let go two weeks into a three months probation period. I hadn't been able to show my abilities as the shop hadn't opened for clients,but I was told they didn't think I was capable of working there,the beautician was given training because she wasn't up to their standards but I went into work and told that morning I was being given a weeks paid notice. But I've since been paid and only got paid for the two weeks I'd worked and never got the paid notice. I contacted them about it and was told they'd call me but haven't heard from them nor have they replied to my email. What are my rights? Do they have to pay me notice (i know they said they would so surely they can't go back on their word?) But by law do they have to pay notice? I also read that written notice should be given for a meeting, unlike what happened to myself and I also never received the email about ending my contract with them like they told me I'd get.
Tasha83 - 6-Jul-17 @ 7:23 PM
Sarah - Your Question:
I am on probation at a private early learning centre and have been advised that I will not get full pay during the summer holiday period when the school is shut. Is this possible, I was really looking forward to the long summer holidays.

Our Response:
Check your contract where this should be explained. Many support staff in education settings are on term time working and are not paid during closure periods.
SafeWorkers - 6-Jul-17 @ 2:41 PM
I am on probation at a private early learning centre and have been advised that I will not get full pay during the summer holiday period when the school is shut. Is this possible, I was really looking forward to the long summer holidays.
Sarah - 6-Jul-17 @ 11:01 AM
Just - Your Question:
After 1 month in to my trial period my employer has decided not to go forward with my contract.Do they have to pay me my 3 month notice stated in my contract or can they shorten it to a week?

Our Response:
Do they specify a different notice period for your probationary period? If not, then your contractual notice period will apply.
SafeWorkers - 4-Jul-17 @ 11:07 AM
I am halfway through my probation period and I am being bullied and I am so stressedover it and I don't know what to do.
Chris2016 - 3-Jul-17 @ 7:59 PM
After 1 month in to my trial period my employer has decided not to go forward with my contract. Do they have to pay me my 3 month notice stated in my contract or can they shorten it to a week?
Just - 3-Jul-17 @ 7:42 AM
44arha - Your Question:
I had a miscarriage when I started working. I took sick days as I was in pain and distress and informed my employer of the emotional and physical changes to myself. They allowed me to go to hospital appointments however my probational period review was brought forward at 3 weeks instead of 5 as I was a "great concern" for attending work. I was told if it would not improve then they'd have to reconsider my employment. Now at my 3 month review I've had heart palpitations and my manager has said that I'm a severe concern and that the heart issues are going to stop me from doing my job properly, I've said that it wouldn't. My attendance at work is now 90% due to these medical complications and my employer is considering firing me. Do I have any rights at all?

Our Response:
Many employers have a policy of including absence levels as a measure of performance etc. This is especially true if you're still in your probationary period.
SafeWorkers - 30-Jun-17 @ 11:09 AM
saes85 - Your Question:
Hi I started a job 4 months ago starting on 3 month probation period which was due to expire this week. My employer confronted me while in the rest room for what I thought was a casual chat. He informed me of a rumour I had a new job. This is true however I have no start date and I was going to work until I had everything set in stone. Without any notice my manager told me today will be my last day and to hand in my id at the end of the shift. Can my manager do this? Give me no notice or no formal meeting to even inform me of my dismissal? My notice period during probation is one week. He gave me no reasonable explanation except that I found a new job.

Our Response:
You should be paid for your week's notice. What is your employer's policy? Is there is a condition that finding a new job during your probationary is a cause for instant dismissal etc?
SafeWorkers - 30-Jun-17 @ 10:34 AM
I had a miscarriage when I started working. I took sick days as I was in pain and distress and informed my employer of the emotional and physical changes to myself. They allowed me to go to hospital appointments however my probational period review was brought forward at 3 weeks instead of 5 as I was a "great concern" for attending work. I was told if it would not improve then they'd have to reconsider my employment. Now at my 3 month review I've had heart palpitations and my manager has said that I'm a severe concern and that the heart issues are going to stop me from doing my job properly, I've said that it wouldn't. My attendance at work is now 90% due to these medical complications and my employer is considering firing me. Do I have any rights at all?
44arha - 29-Jun-17 @ 10:49 AM
Hi I started a job 4 months ago starting on 3 month probation period which was due to expire this week. My employer confronted me while in the rest room for what I thought was a casual chat. He informed me of a rumour I had a new job. This is true however I have no start date and I was going to work until I had everything set in stone. Without any notice my manager told me today will be my last day and to hand in my id at the end of the shift. Can my manager do this? Give me no notice or no formal meeting to even inform me of my dismissal? My notice period during probation is one week. He gave me no reasonable explanation except that I found a new job.
saes85 - 29-Jun-17 @ 12:05 AM
TWR - Your Question:
I have just been told that I have not passed my probation and am being let go. My offer of employment stated that the my position was, "subject to successful completion of a three-month probation period". However it is now almost 5 months since I started working.The problem comes in that the Offer of Employment subsequently states, "You will be under probation unless and until you receive written confirmation of passing probation". This has only just happened. How should this situation be interpreted? Did I pass my probation period or not?

Our Response:
This is rather amibiguous and looks like the employer is "hedging its bets". It might be worth asking a legal professional or ACAS for an opinion on this, although it's unlikely that it will affect your ultimate position with the company.
SafeWorkers - 28-Jun-17 @ 11:50 AM
I have just been told that I have not passed my probation and am being let go. My offer of employment stated that the my position was, "subject to successful completion of a three-month probation period". However it is now almost 5 months since I started working. The problem comes in that the Offer of Employment subsequently states, "You will be under probation unless and until you receive written confirmation of passing probation". This has only just happened. How should this situation be interpreted? Did I pass my probation period or not?
TWR - 26-Jun-17 @ 7:44 PM
HKP - Your Question:
I had a 3 month probationary period in my last role and after 4 months and a week I was called into a probation review, told I didn't pass and given a week's notice (which was the agreed notice within the 3 month probationary period. The notice period after the probationary period was 3 months). In my contract it stated that the employer "may extend the probationary period under certain circumstances". It also stated that if this was the case, the extension reason and duration will be confirmed in writing". This never happened and the probationary period lapsed 5 1/2 weeks ago. I assumed that I had passed as I was not told otherwise nor did I receive any notification of extension. Can my employer extend the probationary period and then dismiss me, claiming that I did not pass my probationary period?!

Our Response:
If you were not told that your probationary period was being extended then you would rightfully assume you'd passed. We're not sure what the outcome of further action would be.If your employer has decided they no longer want you then you may not actually want to continue working for them anyway. Contact ACAS for advice.
SafeWorkers - 23-Jun-17 @ 10:17 AM
I had a 3 month probationary period in my last role and after 4 months and a week I was called into a probation review, told I didn't pass and given a week's notice (which was the agreed notice within the 3 month probationary period. The notice period after the probationary period was 3 months). In my contract it stated that the employer "may extend the probationary period under certain circumstances". It also stated that if this was the case, the extension reason and duration will be confirmed in writing". This never happened and the probationary period lapsed 5 1/2 weeks ago. I assumed that I had passed as I was not told otherwise nor did I receive any notification of extension. Can my employer extend the probationary period and then dismiss me, claiming that I did not pass my probationary period?!
HKP - 22-Jun-17 @ 12:33 AM
I have been working for a company since November 2016 but wasn't told I had to work a probationary period of a year and wouldn't be given a contract till after this period. I have now been offered a job with another company and am unsure how much notice to give or if they will give me a bad reference to the new employer. Please can you advise?
Black Orchid - 20-Jun-17 @ 9:32 PM
I was hired on a open ended contract and my role is permanent upon satisfcatory completion of my probationary period which ends on Friday 7th July 2017. Nothing been told yet but they said I am doing ok and had no probatiin meeting at all. Told by manager that if their are any major concerns of issue then they will make a decision to sack me at the end of my 6 month so preferby given my notice on the Saturday after probation expires .
Habib - 18-Jun-17 @ 11:02 AM
My daughter has worked for a large corporate company for over 3 years. Recently without any prior warning of any form (neither orally or written) she has been told that she can either resign with a small cash payment or go on three months’ probation (or as her superior called it a 3-month performance improvement plan) with the possibility of being fired at the end of it without any cash payment. She was also told that if she resigned she would receive a good reference. Is all this legal? Thankyou. Kind regards. Patrick.
Pad - 5-Jun-17 @ 8:22 PM
I started a job with a 6 month probationary period. My contract states that my employment can be terminated during probation period by giving the appropriate amount of notice. It doesn't say how long that is. Under the notice period section of my contract it says after probation I would need to give 3 months notice. So how much notice would I give during the probation period? Still 3 months?
Charliesangel - 4-Jun-17 @ 10:43 PM
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