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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 25 Mar 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]
I have worked in the same company for almost 5 years. I was offered a promotion and was put onto 6 month probation which is due to end in a month's time. I have heard they have recruited a person for my role in my work place which has me concerned. This was not advertised and I have not received any information during my probation period to say I have any performance issues or am not fulfilling my job role. My 1:1 meetings are few and far between! If they were to Tell me I hadn't passed probation (although they haven't raised any concerns during this period), am I able to claim unfair dismissal due to working in the same company for almost 5 years?
Sam - 25-Mar-17 @ 9:16 AM
I have worked for a company for 2 years as a partimer gettin paid by the hour and then i resigned,. After 3 months i came back to work fulltime my question is why do i still have to go through a 3 month probation period ?
mik - 24-Mar-17 @ 3:55 PM
Daza - Your Question:
Hi, I've started a job 6 months ago and was put on a 3 month probation period but my employer extended it for a further a further 3months which I have actually done 6 months and 2 weeks ok probation and he keeps putting me off from having a review and giving me a contract what rights do I have? Can he just lay me off if he doesn't have enough work etc?

Our Response:
Does your contract allow for an extension of the probationary period? If not, then your employer cannot actually extend it. If you have passed the end date of your probationary period without any fail/pass information from your employer, you can assume you have passed it successfully. Your employer should follow normal disciplinary procedures if they then wish to dismiss you.
SafeWorkers - 24-Mar-17 @ 12:32 PM
KMcG - Your Question:
I've been recently let go from my job and my employer has stated he will pay only a week's notice. However, that would have meant I was still on probation. I have checked all my emails and cannot recall a single meeting where he said my probation was being extended. I've been at the place of employment for 6 months. Am I entitled to one month's payback

Our Response:
What was your original probationary period length? What is your contractual notice period? Sorry we don't have enough information to help you with this.
SafeWorkers - 24-Mar-17 @ 11:57 AM
kaz - Your Question:
I started work 6th febuary & just after 4 weeks I been asusulted & robed by some un known people while I was @ wrk. that incident cause my shoulder ear & eye damaged with facial fracture. I cant see from my left eye even shoulder not moving properly. am under treatment with different doctors. since this incident I could not go for work. police & manager took noticed. now my manager saying I will not get my pay as am on probation & I mite get only ssp. which is around £89.42 p/w. when I asked about my loss of earning. they making excuses. what is the best way to speak with them. I belive I desereve my full pay untill I fit for work. please advise me

Our Response:
You will only be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. If you feel your injuries are a result of your employer failing in their duty of care, you should attempt to claim for any loss of earnings via compensation (see legal advice if necessary).
SafeWorkers - 23-Mar-17 @ 11:35 AM
i started work 6th febuary & just after 4 weeks i been asusulted & robed by some un known people while i was @ wrk .that incident cause my shoulder ear & eye damaged with facial fracture. i cant see from my left eye even shoulder not moving properly. am under treatment with different doctors. since this incident i could not go for work. police & manager took noticed. now my manager saying i will not get my pay as am on probation & i mite get only ssp. which is around £89.42 p/w. when i asked about my loss of earning.they making excuses. what is the best way to speak with them. i belive i desereve my full pay untill i fit for work. please advise me
kaz - 22-Mar-17 @ 10:23 AM
I started working for a company with a 6 month probation. My employer felt i hadn't quite received my targets and we agreed an extension of 6 months. That date was up nearly 3 months ago with no meetings during this time and no confirmation i have passed. I am looking to move on to a more suitable position but would like to know if i can give one weeks notice or a months notice.
Perywinkle - 21-Mar-17 @ 8:55 PM
I'm on probation for three months, and have already signed on for my second month (March). I'm not happy at my current place of employment, and want to leave. Should I inform my employers before the end of the month, or bring it up when they review my contract for next month? I'm not opposed to working during my last month of probation (I am aware that they are short staffed), but I definitely do not want to continue to permanent staff after my probation period has ended. Is there any advice in regard to this situation?
A - 21-Mar-17 @ 8:41 PM
I have just completed my 6 month probation period. I have had a formal interview in which both my line managers said they were very happy with my performance but that they were having to extend my probation period to 9 months due to the low volume of work coming in. They made a point of telling me it was absolutely no reflection on my performance. Are they allowed to do this when technically they have assessed me and said that I have passed the required standards to do the job.
Lexi - 21-Mar-17 @ 8:00 PM
Hi, I've started a job 6 months ago and was put on a 3 month probation period but my employer extended it for a further a further 3months which I have actually done 6 months and 2 weeks ok probation and he keeps putting me off from having a review and giving me a contract what rights do I have? Can he just lay me off if he doesn't have enough work etc?
Daza - 21-Mar-17 @ 5:06 PM
Kate - Your Question:
Good morning. I started a new job last June 16 with a 12 month probation but have never been given a contract to sign ( have verbally asked once) and just have an offer letter stating salary, place of work, probationary period and hours of work. I am now being told I am under performing but nothing is documented in writing nor are there any training schedules nor hr poikicues nor an employee handbook available. My line manager is telling me I might get dismissed or my probation period might be extended. Any idea if any of this is legal and how I can rectify this situation please?

Our Response:
If you have not been given a contract and the only document you have is your offer letter check this carefully. If it doesn't say that your employer reserves the right to extend your probationary period,then they can't extend it now. Ask your employer for some objectives, performance targets etc so you know where you might not be meeting expectations. That at least gives you something to work at between now and June.
SafeWorkers - 21-Mar-17 @ 10:44 AM
I've been recently let go from my job and my employer has stated he will pay only a week's notice. However, that would have meant I was still on probation. I have checked all my emails and cannot recall a single meeting where he said my probation was being extended. I've been at the place of employment for 6 months. Am I entitled to one month's payback
KMcG - 21-Mar-17 @ 9:58 AM
I started a job on 2nd feb 2017 the holiday Year starts 1st April. I have been told I will not start accuring holiday entitlement until I have worked a 3 month probationary period. Is this correct under basic working entitlement.
Tabitha - 20-Mar-17 @ 11:41 PM
n ng - Your Question:
HiI just signed a 6 months probation period contract. The contract can be terminated by either party on a 1 month written notice. Is it not supposed to be a week notice period during a probation ?Please let me know if I can give them a week notice or I have to stick to a month notice?Thanks!

Our Response:
No, if your contract specifies a notice period that is what you must give (contractual notice). Statutory notice is one week during a probationary but this only applies if there is no contractual notice in place.
SafeWorkers - 20-Mar-17 @ 12:50 PM
Good morning. I started a new job last June 16 with a 12 month probation but have never been given a contract to sign ( have verbally asked once) and just have an offer letter stating salary, place of work, probationary period and hours of work. I am now being told I am under performing but nothing is documented in writing nor are there any training schedules nor hr poikicues nor an employee handbook available. My line manager is telling me I might get dismissed or my probation period might be extended. Any idea if any of this is legal and how I can rectify this situation please?
Kate - 18-Mar-17 @ 9:12 AM
Hi I just signed a 6 months probation period contract. The contract can be terminated by either party on a 1 month written notice. Is it not supposed to be a week notice period during a probation ? Please let me know if I can give them a week notice or I have to stick to a month notice? Thanks!
n ng - 17-Mar-17 @ 6:38 PM
Tracy - Your Question:
Hi I have been with my employer for 5 years (as of April 2017), they have told me that my hours are reducing from 40 to 25 per week and that they are moving me to another part of the company. They have provided my revised contract and they are asking me to complete another probationary period. Can they do this? I have never had a discipline or any complainents about my performance.Many thanks

Our Response:
No. Your contract cannot be changed without your consent. Please see the section entitled "If you don't agree to a change" in this Citizens' Advice article
SafeWorkers - 17-Mar-17 @ 12:28 PM
TheBeast - Your Question:
I am over a month into my new role.I was not told at my interview I would be put on a probation period.Yet I received a letter today stating that my probation period started on the 13th of February, can my company legally do this?

Our Response:
No, if you were not told at interview, in your offer letter or in your contract, then your employer cannot initiate a probation period.
SafeWorkers - 17-Mar-17 @ 10:45 AM
I have worked full time for my company for almost 8 months now. The first 6 months were probationary according to my contract. After 6 months passed i was not informed of any extention of my probation period however now that the company letting a few staff members go i have been informed that my probation period was extended and that i could be possibly be one of the ones to go as per my origionl probation terms. Meaning at any time without notice. Can they do this?
Tom - 16-Mar-17 @ 8:45 PM
Cam - Your Question:
I'm 2 months into my month probation period and plan on giving two weeks notice. Would I be entitled to any unpaid holiday pay?

Our Response:
If you haven't taken any holiday during the two months you've worked there you will be entitled to two months worth of holidays. So, for example, if your holiday entitlement was 24 days, your pay would include 4 days untaken leave.
SafeWorkers - 16-Mar-17 @ 1:57 PM
Hi I have been with my employer for 5 years (as of April 2017), they have told me that my hours are reducing from 40 to 25 per week and that they are moving me to another part of the company. They have provided my revised contract and they are asking me to complete another probationary period. Can they do this? I have never had a discipline or any complainents about my performance. Many thanks
Tracy - 15-Mar-17 @ 5:00 PM
I am over a month into my new role. I was not told at my interview I would be put on a probation period. Yet I received a letter today stating that my probation period started on the 13th of February, can my company legally do this?
TheBeast - 15-Mar-17 @ 10:44 AM
I'm 2 months into my month probation period and plan on giving two weeks notice. Would I be entitled to any unpaid holiday pay?
Cam - 14-Mar-17 @ 6:14 PM
Natalie 87 - Your Question:
I started my new job on 16th Feb 2017 we were told it was a permanant 16 hour contract pending if we passed the 13 week probation period Us 15 new workers had to work 12/13 hours shifts to make sure that shop would be open on in two weeks.we were given no finish time as we were merchandizing and could not go until jobs requested for thar day were done,two weeks after opening the manager called us in after our last shift of the week to tell us she has gone over budget and cannot afford to keep us on so 10 out of the 15 new starters have Been laid off the ones she has kept are the ones that were wanting full time work and are between the ages of 17 and 25 so will save her money with it been minimum wage jobs they will get paid pennies Is there anything I can do about this

Our Response:
Assuming you were paid for the hours you worked, we guess the employer didn't have much choice in this. We don't really have enough information on your initial contract to comment effectively though.
SafeWorkers - 14-Mar-17 @ 11:53 AM
P - Your Question:
I'm 6 weeks into my 3 months work trial I've been offerd another job elswere do I have to give notice as I've not sighend any contract with them

Our Response:
Yes, you have already started work so a contract exists, you will need to give the relevant notice to your employer.
SafeWorkers - 13-Mar-17 @ 2:21 PM
i started work for a cleaning company on the 15th feb 2017 and was placed at a high security facility sorry can not disclose name, first 2 nights i had the boss show me the job and section i would have to clean and described the job role failing to tell me a few small details of job discription which i was later told after a complaint had been put in about it. was told that due to nature of site i would have to sit an induction to get security cleared to work onsite to which i agreed the 3rd night had a brief visit from supervisor to see how i was getting on and they left me to carry on working by myself without induction so i was working without security clearance.after 2 weeks and no indduction done i was approached by security and was told i was unable to work onsite alone until induction completed to which i contacted employer to ask why they hadn't contacted client to arrange one 2 more shift later un security cleared i had my induction just 3 days later i was sacked and only told that the reason was due to the client not being happy with my performance which when asked what part of my performance was unsatisfactory they couldn't answer me straight. i was dismissed on performance without being advised on performance and told to improve or helped to improve.. poor training as not shown how to use some equipment for which i should have used. ill advised on job role and requirements. does this count as unfair? as i think it is unfair.
underdog - 12-Mar-17 @ 10:25 PM
My employer has extended my 6 month probation for 3 months due to the area of my job not taking off as they had hoped (not to do with my personal performance). That additional 3 months has now gone by and I was put on secondment for 3 months while the opportunity for me to carry out my original job role developed. This was not documented, just informed verbally. That 3 month secondment has passed & I have been left. I have now been with this employer 16 months & am none the wiser if I have a secure job or not, I asked for a meeting with my manager which occurred & I was to be feedback after a senior manement meeting what the outcome would be and now 3 weeks have passed & ive been told nothing, do I have any rights here to insist in an outcome? I just want to know we're I stand. Thank you.
Elly - 12-Mar-17 @ 9:55 PM
I started my new job on 16th Feb 2017 we were told it was a permanant 16 hour contract pending if we passed the 13 week probation period Us 15 new workers had to work 12/13 hours shifts to make sure that shop would be open on in two weeks ...we were given no finish time as we were merchandizing and could not go until jobs requested for thar day were done,two weeks after opening the manager called us in after our last shift of the week to tell us she has gone over budget and cannot afford to keep us on so 10 out of the 15 new starters have Been laid off the ones she has kept are the ones that were wanting full time work and are between the ages of 17 and 25 so will save her money with it been minimum wage jobs they will get paid pennies Is there anything I can do about this
Natalie 87 - 12-Mar-17 @ 9:32 AM
I'm 6 weeks into my 3 months work trial I've been offerd another job elswere do I have to give notice as I've not sighend any contract with them
P - 10-Mar-17 @ 8:44 PM
Rosey - Your Question:
I am just over 2 months into my probation period of 3 months.My father has been taken seriously ill and I have requested 2 days off.My employer will not authorise holiday but will let me have the 2 days off unpaid but I also have to make the time up.I can understand about not being paid but I don't understand why I should make the time up as well

Our Response:
Why not? As long as your employer is willing to pay you when you do make the hours up, it's their choice to do this.
SafeWorkers - 10-Mar-17 @ 2:33 PM
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