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Employment Probation Periods: What You Need to Know

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 2 Aug 2019 | 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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Hi. I’m nearing the end of my probation period of 6 months. I feel that my acting manager has not liked me is constantly looking for faults and excludes me from various things in work. I work extremely well with everyone and have a lot of experience in my role, but now the acting lead has said that he has major issues with my performance (even though he told me 4 weeks ago that there were no concerns!) and so my higher manager has extended my probation by 8 weeks to monitor my performance. I’d spoken to the union prior to this meeting as I was concerned that my acting lead was acting unfairly and inappropriately. The union feel that i should put in a grievance about him but my concern now is that I will be dismissed after the 8 weeks as it is his word against mine. I work well with everyone else, but the frog has a huge history of bullying and the previous manager has just been dismissed for this. Do I have any rights?
Jake - 2-Aug-19 @ 2:18 PM
Probation in contracr from 26 April till 31 July 2019. No notice received until 27 Jyly with no valid reason. The letter is dated 22 July though. Which was faxed to me only on 27 July. Do I have any foot to go to CCMA with this?
Elize - 28-Jul-19 @ 9:02 AM
My son has had his probation extended after 6 months for another 3 months. He is an trainee estate agent. During the initial 6 months he was continually being told that everything was great and only a few small problems were highlighted. He had no meetings to discuss targets or progress. After 6 months he was given 3 targets one to organise his diary, one to double check what he needs to do and one to sort out his appointments first things in the morning. He has tried to put these things right but has been told that he is continually making small mistakes. He has accumulated nearly £4000 in commission which is due to be paid in September. If they decide not to extend the probation which ends the end of August is he still entitled to the commission. and what should he have has in the way of review meetings? Thanks.
Jo - 3-Jul-19 @ 11:51 AM
On 9 months probation period but 2 weeks before my probation day. Was called for probationary review meeting and I was told I failed my probation and told to finish and go home at the time when a companion I brought in the meeting and HR employee relation were there.But few minutes later, that same manager called me to ask me if I wanted to work at the weekend as I was supposed to. And also work for the 1 week notice I had? Even though during the meeting I clearly asked her if I could continue working and she said no at the meeting.I know she never liked me. What should I do please? Also should I be paid till the date of my probation period or because fired 2 weeks in advance I can not be paid? Please need advise. Regards, Dada
Dada - 23-Jun-19 @ 5:51 PM
Can a probation period be extended 3 months after the 6 month period has ended and everything was fine and signed off?
Meg - 23-Jun-19 @ 6:25 AM
hi, I have a question. I was employed to work during the weekends, still on the probation period. Today I recieved a call from my manager that they were letting me go because they have had too much complaint with the food during weekends. BUT I am not aware of the complaints, they did not even tell me to improve or what. It is funny as last week i’ve had an assesor and he told me that i did great. plus, even if i was the weekend chef, there were people they hired to help me cook( mostly they were the one cooking for all). they did not even gave me a warning or asked me what happened.. Is this a fair dismissal or not?
trish - 21-Jun-19 @ 6:14 PM
Can I collect unemployment of I leave my job before the three month probation period. Due to my inability to learn what they are asking 1 because I do have a learning handicap. 2 the job is way to much without proper training 3 they need some one that can learn by listing not by doing over and over ..
Bender - 21-Jun-19 @ 2:58 AM
I work for GCS the MTA call center company in long Island City My probation is up on July 22 2019I charged my phone under the desk but no one said that was not allowed the supervisor told me I apologized and removed it from the room. A week later I was called in the office and fired I feel like the firing was unfair. I have a good work record many commendations from the calls I handled. What are my alternatives
Nelle - 16-Jun-19 @ 11:01 PM
My employer is trying to make me work a months notice when I have a week. Yesterday was dead on 3 months for my probation period and my review for this is booked in next week. I gave in my notice yesterday for a week and her argument is she was too busy to review me yesterday and it’s next week instead. But I handed in my notice to leave in a weeks time. She is saying I have to work a months notice as I was over my probation period but it wasn’t over it was dead on. Could anyone help thank you
Cree - 5-Jun-19 @ 2:37 PM
I didn’t complete my 3 months probation period.. am not happy with my job and I want to leave .. how much notice period shall I inform my employer..am a speciality Doctor Thanks
Saad - 3-Jun-19 @ 5:21 AM
My son has been working for 3 weeks out of his 3 mth probation and didn’t have his medication due to reasons beyond his control. His manager has told him they may not keep him as his performance on that day was not great. Can they do that?
Kristi - 25-May-19 @ 2:41 AM
Hi, My probation end on the 08/07/19 and I have only been off absence twice. once I pass my probation does the absences start from 0 again or will it continue from the 2 absences I have already had?
Shyfly - 10-May-19 @ 4:00 PM
A couple of months ago i was working for a company and was 4 days of the end of my 12 week probation when i rang in and told them I had road accident on motorbike causing me to break my elbow and few cuts and bruises...I was told just to get a sick note and get better soon! The sick note took abit longer than planned to get but a week later a few days after my probation period ended my boss said that im not entitled to any sick pay at all as they decided to fail me. This then caused me to get massivley far behind on bills, lost the house i was renting over 100 miles from any family, and has made me really deperssed and anxious as everything has gone down hill Is there any legal action to help mt case or am i fighting a losing battle?
Gammo - 20-Apr-19 @ 3:24 AM
Hi, I started a new job 4 months ago and the new employers said they would give me training. I have not had proper training and one of the employers stated that as well in my probation review period. I was suppose to be on probation for 3 months but it has now been extended for another month and ends on 4th April because I am still getting things wrong according to one of the employers. The other employer says I’m doing really well but he does by what the other employer says. I have not had adequate training to do my job professionally. One of the employers also said I’m not intelligent enough for the role as well. Considering they said they would train me and knew that I didn’t have experience in the field before I started. Can anyone tell me where I stand please?
Hello1 - 30-Mar-19 @ 9:00 AM
I have just been sacked whilst I was on sick leave. I was off with depression but the. Sick note didn’t say that. I was signed off for a month. Within that month I was due to have 4 days off as I was using my holiday up. The last day of my sick/holiday I received an email stating my termination of employment due to capability. I worked with another person who we shared an inbox, which we would receive jobs and notifications of jobs that have been cancelled. In the letter/email I got it said that I had cost the company £800 but not cancelling some jobs. I am afraid to say I am not the only person who deals with that so I am not sure how they have worked this out. I was also told time and time again about another member of staff costing the company a fortune. If I knew I had mad a mistake I would tell my line manger straight away so she would of known .They stated they only had to give me a weeks notice which ended the day I received the email. They have stated because I never got my letter after my probation period it was never formally closed. I spoke regarding this at the end of June to my line manager and she assured me I had the job. It was 1 Year and 2 weeks I had been at the work place and I was on a 3 month probation. I have had no warnings and feel I have been mistreated.
Blue - 30-Mar-19 @ 2:57 AM
My Grandson was hired and had a probationary period of 3 months. During that time he became ill. He was seen by a doctor and told he could not return to work that and also no work the following day. Upon return to work he provided the supervisor with the documentation provided by the doctor. He was told he was now on probation for 1 Year. If he got sick come to work any way and they would pay him to “puke” in a bucket. Any advise is greatly appreciated. Debbie
Debbie - 25-Mar-19 @ 6:54 PM
My previous company (of 9 years) have asked me back. Should I be subjected to another probation period, even though I would be doing the same role? It has been less than a year since I left.
Gina - 20-Mar-19 @ 7:09 PM
Hi i started a new job dec 2018 and its 12 weeks probation i was off 3 days during this time can i be sacked? Uk
Snoopy - 21-Feb-19 @ 4:40 AM
I went for an interview with a company i told them that i had never worked in this field before they assured me that they would train me i left my old job of 9 years to join this company i started this role they did not do any training they just dumped me in the deep end i when i asked question it was like i was the problem then 3 weeks later they dismissed me saying i was not cut out for the job im now unemployed what rights do i have
Pebbles - 16-Feb-19 @ 10:06 PM
I just started new work in UK my employer sighed documented with me with that condition of 1, if I left my job in less than six months than I have pay back my salary of training hours which is approximately 40 hours of my hard work Is that legit
Peter - 13-Feb-19 @ 3:19 PM
Hi I'm waitressing at a new place on 3 month probation. We got a probation letter setting out out hrs for shifts 1 and 2 and was informed they wanted me to work 27 hrs a week. The shifts don't match that as are variable thoughwas ok initially as i could be cleaning waitressing or doing bar work. I'm mainlydi8ng waitressing but every week the shifts get changed and I gave had my hrs reduced from 18 one week to 8 and now 6. I've asked for extra shifts to be told it's the needs of the service. Though I know those shifts are still being covered by others yet my probation letter says shifts may be changed or even increased with prior agreement. There is no discussion between management and employee. The timetable is changed weekly and until we see it we don't know what our shifts are. I've had my hrs and days cut from 4 shifts to 2 the last few weeks. Do i have any rights to be paid the hrs in my probation letter? There doesnt seem to be a fair distribution of shifts with some staff getting 5 or 6 shifts a week with 30 plus hrs.Ive been told im doing a goid job. Thanks
Shaz123 - 29-Jan-19 @ 11:58 AM
Hi I'm waitressing at a new place on 3 month probation. We got a probation letter setting out out hrs for shifts 1 and 2 and was informed they wanted me to work 27 hrs a week. The shifts don't match that as are variable thoughwas ok initially as i could be cleaning waitressing or doing bar work. I'm mainlydi8ng waitressing but every week the shifts get changed and I gave had my hrs reduced from 18 one week to 8 and now 6. I've asked for extra shifts to be told it's the needs of the service. Though I know those shifts are still being covered by others yet my probation letter says shifts may be changed or even increased with prior agreement. There is no discussion between management and employee. The timetable is changed weekly and until we see it we don't know what our shifts are. I've had my hrs and days cut from 4 shifts to 2 the last few weeks. Do i have any rights to be paid the hrs in my probation letter? There doesnt seem to be a fair distribution of shifts with some staff getting 5 or 6 shifts a week with 30 plus hrs.Ive been told im doing a goid job. Thanks
Shaz123 - 29-Jan-19 @ 11:57 AM
I have started a job and I’m 2 months into my probation period which is 3 months, but my grandparent passed away last night can I be fired for having time off because of it because I’m in probation period still or ?
Ash - 28-Jan-19 @ 12:38 PM
I am in a three month probation period and I have found another job. How much notice do I need to give?
Dolly - 18-Jan-19 @ 3:45 PM
I got promoted in October and my probation period ended on the 4th of January, I am due my performance review next Friday, i feel like they are going to demote me not Christmas is over. They never gave me any advice or information on my performance so far and I was told I was doing well in December. If they demote me can I Appel or say anything that can stop it happening?
Matty - 16-Jan-19 @ 8:26 PM
I was sacked before my probationary periodI'm I still entitled to my holiday pay, I was only there 3 months, many thanks for any help
Cookie - 6-Jan-19 @ 2:42 PM
I have been at my job for 5 years and have just been told that in the new year I will be on probation along with the two other women I work with. i do not think this has come from my head office but from my branch manager. has this happened to anyone else? can he do this? Thank you x
Marie - 29-Nov-18 @ 8:43 AM
I started my job with a three month probation period,2 others started after me on the same probation time. I have been working for 9 weeks and have been called in for a review the others haven’t yet. I know things have gone quiet at work does this mean I will go and the others stay because I have been there longer
Sugars12 - 14-Nov-18 @ 9:05 PM
my boyfriend started a lorry job on a three month probation.He was let out on his own on day 4 or driving a lorry without knowing fully what he was doing and had a minor accident which needed to go through insurance.This was 6 weeks ago and has not been a problem.He has been called into office today and his probabtion period and job have been terminated.Is this fair?All the other drivers have incidents all the time, but I guess not in probabtion period.
Sarah - 6-Nov-18 @ 1:47 PM
I have been employed for 1 year and my probation period for this company is 1 year. My manager has stated that she is extending my probation by another 3 months.I have done everythingI am asked to do,I am not stupid and can work confidently on my own.The reason was that I'm on a stage 2 warning for taking a sick day, though I text the day before to ask permission.Apparently I haven't come up to scratch and given my age and work experience this is disappointing, this was said twice,it was very humiliating.At present we are short staffed and I'm often doing the job of 2 people. Please can someone advise me on my rights.Walking out and telling them where they can stick their job isn't an option,unfortunately.
Jal - 5-Nov-18 @ 6:21 PM
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