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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 29 Mar 2021 | 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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My six month probation has just been extended by two months. My attitude, ability, quality and communication skills were all marked as excellent. The reason given was absence due to my type1 diabetes.They actually said that. Van they legally do this to me?
Unsure - 29-Mar-21 @ 8:47 PM
I am currently on a 6 month probation period in a new company, I’ve worked there 4 months now. I have seen a job I have had my heart set on doing within the same company but in a different area. I was honest in my interview this is something I would like to do in the future. Is it too soon to apply for this other job? Please help advise me
Lassy1 - 14-Feb-21 @ 1:13 AM
I started my management role on 1st June 2020. I had a 6 month probation, I never had a buddy or any real management supervision, in fact in the 6 months I had line management once on 10th June. I skipped into my probation believing I was doing well and would pass,my team think highly of me and I work very hard. I do still have a way to go but my job is huge. I had my probation extended for 1 month as an action plan wasn't up to his standard despite not having any direction prior to what his standard was. During that month I had a holiday, afterwards I isolated and he met with my admin and changed loads of the action plan, he said it needed even more than originally discussed in the probation so was now extending it by 3 months from the original probation meeting, so I technically have 2 months left. I received my pro action letter and there are 8 actions I need to have in place which he has never mentioned before, all new actions which to me should just be objectives for 2021, but they are all.. do these or be dismissed. Additional to this he asked that after 7 months I ask my direct support to buddy me!! How demoralising and if he is that good why didnt he get the job, he also asked me to complete weekly visits whereas in the pro action meeting it was 3 monthly. Can he do this? Just add whatever he likes as a reason for extending my probation without any evidence that this has been discussed? Its all unachievable in 6 weeks now as only just got the letter so look who is looking for a new job!!!
Kd - 17-Jan-21 @ 9:38 PM
My husband started a new job January 2020with 6 months probation.After 3 months his employer moved him to another completely different job as Head of Education, previous Head had walked out during the pandemic. He did the second role for 4 months and received a fabulous OFSTED report for his work. His manager then gave his new job to someone else despite having promised it to him. He went back to his original job and his manager said that despite having worked for 7 months at that point his original probation was not completed because he had spent 4 months doing another role as directed by his manager! Is this legal? He has now almost worked there 12 months with both roles combine and his manager says she can sack him as he is still technically in probation,is this legal? He only changed roles within his probation period at his managers request. Best regards Rachel
Rachel - 1-Jan-21 @ 7:47 PM
My husband was 3 months into a 12 month probation period which is shown on his term sheet. After 3 months his team leader and manager called him to smoking area to information him he was picking up some admin work quick enough and therefore they had found him a new role elsewhere in company. He had spent his last shift with his replacement without knowing. He didnt receive follow up progress meetings. Is this allowed under probation ?
Jaylen - 12-Nov-20 @ 9:41 AM
I worked 48 hours as training day, should I have to reported to hrmc
Lena - 19-Oct-20 @ 5:40 PM
I joined the NHS in June and have passed my two probationary meetings with the last one confirming I am on the way to pass completely in November.Both myself and manager signed this off.However, a week later, something happened at work and my manager now wants to change comments and date on my last report that has already been signed off.Are they allowed to do this>
Ghost - 29-Sep-20 @ 10:25 AM
I have been on a 6 month probation and been every month on top of the board over 30 people in my team and being the most junior in the company, had client recommendations and great reviews and now my director even told me that he has put me in to nomination for the last 2 months for manager of the month they have extended my probation until December. We are in a global pandemic and even then I have worked thru it and finished every month 1st or 2nd on the top of the board. How can they say now that I haven’t achieved targets and on top of that put me on a higher target than the rest of the team and give me the accounts that need more sales and closing? Do I have any rights?
Son - 11-Sep-20 @ 10:08 AM
Good evening po,legal po ba yung ginawa nilang pag terminate sa live in partner ko dahil sa absences niya?under probationary employee po siya,na may valid reason nmn po may medical certificate to prove na valid yung pag absent niya,gaya po na operahan ako ng cyst kailangn,tapus maysakit po siya dahil nag tatae sumasakit ang tiyan.Legal din po bha na every absences niya kina kaltasan ng 540 pesos for penalty which is thier rules is NO WORK, NO PAY. we all know na nasa pandemic po tayo ngayun. Pero ang pag terminate po sa kanya on the day,walang notice po sa employee na ang pagkaalam ko po kailangan may notice po silang ibibigay2 days or 48 hours terminate na po siya. For me parang hindi makatao ginawa lalo na sa pandemic.
Nice - 22-Aug-20 @ 12:50 PM
I started a job in October 2019 andI was on probation for 26 weeks so this was due to endin mayin this time I had to take 1 day off sick and I also was put on furlough. In march In July I was due to return to work but had to isolate for an extra week due to my wife having symptomsI then returned to work .this week I received a letter dated 6th of Auguststating that my probation was being extended for a further 26 weeks . The letter was given to me on the 12th of Augustcan they do this any help would be greatly appreciated
Les - 14-Aug-20 @ 9:54 PM
Hi I'm just wondering if this is legal my husband was told he passed his probabyion today he had a meeting they have said it's been extended to which my husband said hold on a minute you said I'd passed it, to which his boss said whoever's had done paper work is no longer there and no record of this so it's been extended no notice as from when or how long it's going to be for can they legally do this.
Caz - 7-Aug-20 @ 4:42 PM
My 3 month's probation period was due to end on the 6th April, however my workplace closed its doors before that due to the lockdown. During the lockdown, I lost a family member and upon informing my employer, they placed me on furlough. It was expected that I would return to work on the 1st of June, with the possibility of having my probationary period extended. Although I was not opposed to it nothing happened.If they don't tell me that it is being terminated or extended does that mean its automatically passed?
Gamara - 2-Aug-20 @ 7:41 PM
Where are the answers to these questions?
Gill - 19-Jun-20 @ 11:11 PM
So I have been working for this man for just under a year now and am still not on the cards , he said he was going to do it b4 lockdown but it did not happen and I have not been paid anything from any one since this all happened not even the government so iv sat here with a family and a house and not got anything for 7 weeks and I still have 2 weeks to go , Should he of put me on the cards after 3 to 6 months of me working for him and is what he has done illegal, my understanding of it is after 3 to 6 months he should of put me on the cards I am a class a employee and go above and beyond for him and the guys I work for and out of 15 men I’m the only one now getting paid because of this ?
Sean - 20-May-20 @ 9:29 AM
My 6 month probation is due to end on the 26th of May, due to the current lockdown my place of work is currently closed and expected to open on the 1st of June, what happens with my probabtion? I've asked my employer for information but have received a vague response that avoided the question. If they don't tell me its being terminated or extended before then does that mean its automatically passed?
Liam17 - 16-May-20 @ 4:57 PM
I am in my 3rd month of new job as a social worker probation meeting held, told about a complaint from a colleague which is actually concerns, not shown the information, nor any meeting/support to discuss these concerns, decision taken by manager to extend the probation period and this meeting arranged with HR to assess performance, asked to bring rep as thiscould lead to dismissal. Only 1 supervision session throughout this process... noregular feedback, other colleagues not had probation meetings.
Ethics - 26-Apr-20 @ 10:32 PM
My son was working on a 3 month probationary job, he is only 18 and its his first ever job his 3 months is up on fri Today he went into work and made a mistake on a measurement the boss shouted ay him and told him to go home and that was him finished. I phoned and asked what was the problem they said he had made too many mistakes and that was it. He has been every day to work, never let them down even this week when he could of told them he didnt have to work. As there work is not essential. They have never gave him a review or any warnings. What are his rights?
Angry mum - 26-Mar-20 @ 2:00 PM
My 3 moth probation period ended three weeks ago, nothing was said so I just presumed I had passed. Last week I told my employer I was pregnant (bit of a surprise for me) and now today they have said they are extending my probation for another 3 months? Can they do this? It would take my probation up until a few weeks before I would go on maternity leave which seems convenient for them.
Darcy - 3-Mar-20 @ 11:01 AM
I am currently 5 months into a probation period but the powers that be cannot afford my salary. I believe at my probation meeting they will give me a months notice?, If i resigned 1st giving 1 months notice could they reject this? I am sure I have read that they cannot as this would be deemed as being sacked?
KG72 - 2-Mar-20 @ 4:05 PM
Hello am I able to get an opinion please? my boyfriend started a new job in September on 6 months probation, for the first 5 months he was never off or late, 4 weeks before the probation ended he was hospitalized for an infection for 3 weeks then signed off for a further 4 weeks will this result in him loosing his job as he is still on probation
madge - 25-Feb-20 @ 10:47 AM
I currently on a months probation at an alterations shop. I am 2 weeks in and I turned up to work the other day to find out my boss had hired someone to take my place. My manager told me the boss was unhappy with the amount of work I was producing however I have been told this. The women who had turned up to take my job decided not to take the job as she thought what the boss did to me was horrible. I’ve heard rumours that she’s having another interview. No one has spoken to me anything just my manger and she told me to keep it a secret. Is there anything I can do.
Dani - 28-Jan-20 @ 6:07 PM
Hi I started in a new job recently, I asked if weekends were involved the answer only occcasionally, ok ive worked 6 days for 3 weeks, you cant stop and have a break because its driving around, ontop of that your supposed to be expected to do 3 or 4 hour cleans drive to other places, we are told that places from your house are 1hr 30mins max, whats not considered is travelling from home to orpington, 3hr clean then harlow 3hr clean then home. Thats alot to me in travelling my health is now suffering and my stomach acid is going crazy, ilI had to go hospital and put on medication, I was then told im sacked, then because the medication side effects possibly mean I cant operate machinery or drive, i have given the medication name and doseage and im told to carry on, until further talks maybe next week. Im considering leaving anyway the workload is not what I expected at all.
Sue - 24-Jan-20 @ 6:18 AM
My daughter has justresigned of her job after three months. She had a probation period of six months and a notice of termination of three months. The employer said that he is going to ask for a compensation. Is it posible?
Olga - 12-Jan-20 @ 6:18 PM
To pwill 2 Dec 19 @ 12:20pm : Hi, I just wanted to give my opinion as the site does not seem to reply any longer. I don' t think they can legally deduct the cost of CeMap 2 and would challenge this strongly. My reasoning is the employer has not given sufficient time to improve, and might not have met their responsibilities under Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments. Call the ACAS helpline, or Citizens Advice, to talk through the precise details. Good luck.
SB - 4-Dec-19 @ 9:19 PM
My daughter has reached the end of her probation period for a large UK mortgage brokers. She has completed part one of CeMAP and was working towards part 2. She disclosed that she has dyslexia and dyspraxia and her monthly targets were reduced slightly. She usually met her targets except for the last month and was told that she would be dismissed at her review in two days time. She has also been told tha the cost of CeMap 2 will be deducted from her final salary. Can someone please tell me if they can make this deduction? Thank you
pwill - 2-Dec-19 @ 12:20 PM
Should you pay taxes during probation period
Ann - 29-Nov-19 @ 1:52 PM
On probation period are you still allowed to pay tax
Ann - 29-Nov-19 @ 1:48 PM
I just went to sign to accept job offer while I'm 6months pregnant and will start working December do you think I would be allowed to get leave without pay or maternity leave I'm so stressed because I can't lose this job now
Slindo - 7-Nov-19 @ 1:52 PM
I started a new job with and 1 week into the job and probation period, the company have told me they have an existing manager 'suddenly available' from another project and therefore they have told me I am no longer employed. My question is do I get a notice period and pay for the notice or can they just pay me for the week I've worked and leave me jobless?
Viz - 22-Sep-19 @ 9:39 AM
I had a 90 day probation but nothing in writing as to what can be done are not done . My probation ended on July 25. I June a patient fell while I was doing the exam. Even though I was not near the patient and did not stand the patient I was blamed. Her husband said she could stand and assist his wife to do so.This happened in June before my probation ended.In September I ask my employer about my benefits which would have been vacation and sick that was not showing.He paid me for the labor day holiday, than the next day said he was upset about the patient incident and potential lawsuit which I have not been said to be negligent but they were upset that it happened as I was.He said because of that I would accrue sick time and vacation pending how the case came out. He than added by the way I paid you for vacation by accident. This is almost 2 months after my probation ended and only after I ask him about benefits. I did make it clear to him he can’t withhold my sick time and I don’t care about the .25 hours he gives every two weeks (6.5) hours a year in vacation. I just want to know if it is legal for him to decide that far after my probation that he is going to penalize me for something that I don’t feel I was guilty of doing.
Pancakes - 17-Sep-19 @ 3:21 PM
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