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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Oct 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Probationary Period Employer Dismissal

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

Why have a probationary period?

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

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

Reader's Question:

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

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

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

Rights during probation

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

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

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

Readers' Question:

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

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

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

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

Extending your probation period

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

Reader's Question:

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

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

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

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

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

Dismissed during probation

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

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

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

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

Reader's Question

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

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

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[Add a Comment]
My son has to travel to his new job acne he had been late twice sure typo the bus not coming up. He has been late by five minutes each time..Both times he had been given a warning... Is this allowed considering he is doing his best to get in on time?
SONSDad - 18-Oct-18 @ 7:10 AM
My son has started a job 2 months ago with a 37.5 hour contact and 3 month probation.He is 2 months into his probation and just been told he has to have his hours cut to 24 hours. Is this allowed?The company had allowed those who start at 5.30 to have the full hours but those who start later like him have been told they can only do 24 hours a week
SONSDad - 18-Oct-18 @ 7:06 AM
I have been with my new companyfor 4 weeks and everything was fine but when I raised concerns about the company's future and was there anything to worry about , I was asked by the managerto give the names of the people who I had heard this form or I was out the door in the management words . I told him it was a the general feeling that I had heard not just one person. At that pointhe told me to go. Up until this point every thing was fine they were happy with my work but because I would not give him any names he told me to leave with out a weeks notice. I have been told that they are going to deduct money for the training I reserved even though it was in house and I could not use this training anywhere else. The 4 issues are can they deduced money for the training I.E paperwork and working with the company kit 2the reason for dismissal even though I have not done anything wrong my self and 3 they didn't give me a weeks notice also they are deducting the money for my uniform.
Stratton - 16-Oct-18 @ 6:27 PM
I started my job on 4 April and on 6 months probation (ie finished on 4 October) I received an email with an attachment (letter) inviting me to a hearing on 12 October. I can take a union rep or colleague to this meeting. Another member of staff will be taking notes. At no time has my work been questioned and my attendance has been 100%. I kinda feel they are going to dismiss me. Can they do this even though the probation period ended on 4 October ? Thank you
Jennifer Amison - 13-Oct-18 @ 8:03 PM
I had to have 10 weeks off work for sick leave as l was very ill. I went back and had some refresher training. Now l have been put into a training team with new starters and l am back on probation and have to go through accreditation again. I have been there a year and a half. I can see this is a way of getting rid of me. Before l went sick l made a few mistakes but everyone does!
Jane - 13-Oct-18 @ 4:10 PM
I am on a probationary period and have given my employers 1 weeks notice as stated in the contracted under the probation section. My employers came back to me and said it is 1 month as further in the contract under notice period states 1 month so the notice period clause supersedes the probation notice period is this correct?
Jenjon - 13-Oct-18 @ 9:13 AM
Hi. I am on probation for 3 months but my proposed salary for the position is not applied yet until I pass my probationary period. Is that possible?
Jesus - 9-Oct-18 @ 8:21 PM
I worked for an agency and was hired and I completed a 13 week trial work and stay there a total of 94 days. Time keeping exeptional work brilliant. attendance 94 days. No problems. Then I got a call from agency with no apparent reason that i'm dismissed. I feel i have been treated unfairly and if so what can I do about it?
thepope - 7-Oct-18 @ 2:08 PM
I am on a3 months probation and I need a day off as it my daughter birthday I have said I will come back of my holiday early if I can have the Sunday off and they said no ifI don’t go in can they sack me
Tommo - 4-Oct-18 @ 4:36 AM
I have just changed roles at work. The new role involved a new contract which discusses probationary period of 6 months. I am within this period and would like to hand my notice in with one months notice (the allotted time in probation, after it would be two), my employers have said they want two months notice. Who is right in this situation? The longer notice period would mean I will miss out on another position
BobM - 30-Sep-18 @ 5:57 PM
Have just been told I have failed my 6mknth probation due to performance related issues. However during the 6 months I have had no performance reviews to tell me what was going wrong or to help solve the problems I had no informal chats with the management team and their is no paper trail of any meeting any brief chat I had I was told everything was going fine can any one advice if the procedure they have used is correct
Aisling - 18-Sep-18 @ 11:22 AM
If Im fired or I choose to leave during the probationary period is the contractual agreement for not working with it a certain radius or time frame still apply? (I’m a massage therapist and my contract I was handed says I can’t work for competitive companies for 3 years after my contract is void)
Steve - 13-Sep-18 @ 6:41 AM
slmr - Your Question:
My boyfriend works for an appliance fitting company and was on probation however he passed it after the first three months. He's now worked for the company for just under a year and while at work damaged the ligaments in his hand so has been off work for 3 months. He has now returned to work and has been told that although he isn't actually back on probation he will only be receiving his probationary pay which is £2.20 less than the rate he was paid before the accident. He is doing all of the same duties but is unable to lift certain appliances. I was wondering if this is allowed or if he has a case to pursue this further? Thanks

Our Response:
We don't really have enough information to comment on this. What reasons have been given for the pay reduction?
SafeWorkers - 10-Sep-18 @ 11:18 AM
I have had a promotion and it came with a 3month probation period and I haven't yet been signed off or been told my probation has been extend and I'm now a month past after asking for a meeting on several occasions. What are my rights? I have worked in the company for over 8 years and previously covered the positions I was promoted upto.
Jayjay - 4-Sep-18 @ 9:12 PM
My boyfriend works for an appliance fitting company and was on probation however he passed it after the first three months. He's now worked for the company for just under a year and while at work damaged the ligaments in his hand so has been off work for 3 months. He has now returned to work and has been told that although he isn't actually back on probation he will only be receiving his probationary pay which is £2.20 less than the rate he was paid before the accident. He is doing all of the same duties but is unable to lift certain appliances. I was wondering if this is allowed or if he has a case to pursue this further? Thanks
slmr - 3-Sep-18 @ 7:36 AM
Hi all, Some advice PLEASE. I'm 3 weeks into my 6 week probation and have just been fired for smoking in my company car. I was fired under gross misconduct but I was never told I could not smoke in the car or received a no smoking policy or have no smoking stickers in the car. Does anyone know my rights, tribunal etc ?
HAGMON - 1-Sep-18 @ 3:09 AM
Hi, I would like to ask. I have a probation period 3 month. If I do not like my job - can I leave whenever I want ? How long should be a notice, because in my contract is written - that I should give 3 month notice , but I don’t find it fair - since my probation period is 3 month. Can you please advise me ?
AleS - 30-Aug-18 @ 10:29 AM
So.i started work 5 months ago , 2 weeks I do work.i was out as my daughter was admitted to hospital,followingrhis she had 2 more admissions and my son had one admission to hospital. They have just come and said they are moving my probation period out another three months. They have no problems with my work . Can they do this ,I feel like I'm being punished for being a mother. If never been out myself if made up hours and what happened in the next three months if they get sick.
Fittzy - 30-Aug-18 @ 8:04 AM
I've been working at my work place since January, My probation period was 3 months, which my manager has never signed off. She's been very unprofessional towards me, regarding my weight and what I wear ( I have never worn anything inappropriate) & kept dangling my probation period over me. We're now just about to go to September and she's still not signed me off. She's now saying that we agreed to extend it to 6 months (which is still over and was never agreed),she's saying that I may not have a job now because I've not been signed off. I'm on minimum wage and I am doing 2 people's jobs as one person left on a normal day,when people don't bother coming in I then pick up there work. I was looking at advice of whether she can just dismiss me over nothing, and if she can now make me sign paperwork to have my probation extended, past my probation date. If she does dismiss me, is there any legal action I can take?
Liz - 29-Aug-18 @ 1:50 PM
Concernedhusband - Your Question:
My wife started work with her employer with a 6 month probation period. After her first week of work she suffered an injury to her foot during her day off. She has since had to have surgery and is now concerned she will have her contract terminated. She has a sick note from the doctor stating she cannot perform her duties at work until the injury has healed. This may be 4-6 weeks. Can an employer terminate a contract if the employee is off injured? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Our Response:
An employer is within their rights to dismiss an employee or fail a probationary period because of prolonged sickness absence.
SafeWorkers - 28-Aug-18 @ 2:58 PM
My wife started work with her employer with a 6 month probation period. After her first week of work she suffered an injury to her foot during her day off. She has since had to have surgery and is now concerned she will have her contract terminated. She has a sick note from the doctor stating she cannot perform her duties at work until the injury has healed. This may be 4-6 weeks. Can an employer terminate a contract if the employee is off injured? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Concernedhusband - 25-Aug-18 @ 3:30 PM
Buck - Your Question:
I started a new job,3 weeks ago,want to leave really bad, would I get paid for the 3 weeks I've worked.

Our Response:
Yes you should always get paid for any work you have done for your employer. If you do not serve your notice period however, your employer can make deductions for that.
SafeWorkers - 14-Aug-18 @ 12:35 PM
I started a new job,3 weeks ago,want to leave really bad, would I get paid for the 3 weeks I've worked.
Buck - 14-Aug-18 @ 11:11 AM
Zar - Your Question:
I have been working at my job I had a 6 month probation period, at 6 months and 11 days I am served with another 3 months probation. 1 Sickness but I had 3 operations I needed not wanted without it could of been serious to my health. 2 Confidentiality but they broke confidentiality by telling me what I suppose to of broke??? It's impossible for me to know this information. They haven't investigated and malious gossip is the 3rd, but that's not true either, that's where they broke confidentiality of another staff member because I knew nothing about what they are telling me, or accusing me of. like I said early it's impossible for me to know the information they accusing me off. My manager doesn't talk to me this is there way of getting rid of me because I put a grievance in. I think this is unfair my probation should of been over 11 days before they served me with another 3 months, they haven't even investigated before they served my probation, where is innocent before proven guilty.

Our Response:
A probationary period is in effective a trial periodwhere your employer assesses you suitability for the role, how you fit in with the company etc. That means if your employer does not feel you are good for the company business-wise etc, they can use the probabtionary period to address this. Your employee rights still exist even though you are on probation, so check that they have followed their own policy in extending the probationary period etc.
SafeWorkers - 7-Aug-18 @ 12:14 PM
Cookie - Your Question:
I had an accident in my delivery van in week 10 of my probation and could not contact anyone to inform them or ask advice as nobody would answer their phones, the next day I went into work as scheduled and had to fill out an accident report over the phone whilst on a break, the van was a right off and the company are claiming through the insurance. I was then informed that I needed to attend the office 3 days later with no reason as to why, on arrival at the office it became clear I was to be dismissed, to protect my future employment I resigned before the official meeting began it was also confirmed that I would have been dismissed.This seems very unfair and I was wondering if this is legal.

Our Response:
As long as your employer followed correct procedures we can't see that there's much you can do about this.
SafeWorkers - 6-Aug-18 @ 11:43 AM
I have been working at my job I had a 6 month probation period, at 6 months and 11 days I am served with another 3 months probation. 1 Sickness but I had 3 operations I needed not wanted without it could of been serious to my health. 2 Confidentiality but they broke confidentiality by telling me what I suppose to of broke??? It's impossible for me to know this information. They haven't investigated and malious gossip is the 3rd, but that's not true either, that's where they broke confidentiality of another staff member because I knew nothing about what they are telling me, or accusing me of. like I said early it's impossible for me to know the information they accusing me off. My manager doesn't talk to me this is there way of getting rid of me because I put a grievance in. I think this is unfair my probation should of been over 11 days before they served me with another 3 months, they haven't even investigated before they served my probation, where is innocent before proven guilty.
Zar - 5-Aug-18 @ 3:23 PM
I had an accident in my delivery van in week 10 of my probation and could not contact anyone to inform them or ask advice as nobody would answer their phones, the next day I went into work as scheduled and had to fill out an accident report over the phone whilst on a break, the van was a right off and the company are claiming through the insurance. I was then informed that I needed to attend the office 3 days later with no reason as to why, on arrival at the office it became clear I was to be dismissed, to protect my future employment I resigned before the official meeting began it was also confirmed that I would have been dismissed. This seems very unfair and I was wondering if this is legal.
Cookie - 3-Aug-18 @ 7:40 PM
Twiggy - Your Question:
I was given 6 months probation period when I started my job Feb 20th 2018 the probation period will be up 20th Aug 2018.I have just received a zero hours contract for that period also asking if I would like to join Nest. should I have received the contract at the start of the probation?I am confused!

Our Response:
A zero hours contract with a 6 months probationary period? Why is it a zero hours contract at all? You should receive a contract/written statement of particulars within 2 months of your starting employment, so yes, you should have received this by April 2018.
SafeWorkers - 3-Aug-18 @ 2:19 PM
I was given 6 months probation period when i started my job Feb 20th 2018 the probation period will be up 20th Aug 2018. I have just received a zero hours contract for that period also asking if i would like to join Nest. should i have received the contract at the start of the probation? I am confused!
Twiggy - 1-Aug-18 @ 1:35 PM
I have worked within the legal sector for over 19 years and at the beginning of June was offered a post with a new firm of Solicitors as a PA to a Partner on a three month probation period.The girl that had been doing the job had become a floater as the role was too stressful but then she remained in the office carrying on working for the fee earner.The other lady in the team has had regular weekly meetings/training sessions with the partner which I have never had.A few weeks after I started I saw some clients in the library of the firm to sign two documents but it became clear that they did not understand what they were signing and I had to spend time with them.There was no room free so I had no choice but to go through documents with them in the library and then had a complaint put in against me and told that I should have told them to come back.I was also told that a client had made a complaint against me but the Partner would not tell me who.Today, after two months in the role, the Partner whom I had been working for came back after a weeks holiday and spent two hours training the other girl in the department.A few weeks ago she asked me to hand over all the completions we had so that this girl could learn in case I was not there for any reason.I got called into the office at 4.30pm with the Partner and the HR lady and told that my work was exemplary, they could not fault my timekeeping but a Solicitor had made a complaint about me, they again would not tell me who and also that because I would not engage in activities outside the organisation they would not continue my three month probation period.I have never had this happen before and have told them that I will carry on with the probation period and then finish so that I can find time to find alternative position.However I do feel that they have used me and have no substantial reason to get rid of me.Has anyone else had this happen to them?
Tedani - 30-Jul-18 @ 8:29 PM
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