Probation Periods at Work – UK Law & Employee Rights

If you’ve recently gotten a new job, your contract may specify a probation period. This is an increasingly common feature when starting a new role. The length and scope of your probationary period should be specified in your contract of employment before you begin work.

manager and employee discussing probation period at a desk in an office
Probation periods are now a common feature of employment contracts.

Probation Period Meaning

A probation period is a trial period of employment at the start of a new role. This means the employee’s role will only be made permanent subject to satisfactory completion of the probationary period. This ensures the new job is working out for both the employee and employer.

Why Have a Probationary Period at Work?

Employers will often carry out an application and interview process. However, you can’t always tell from an interview how an employee will perform in a role, or whether they will fit in with an existing team. A probationary period lets both employee and employer see if the job is a good fit for both parties.

Depending on the contract of employment, there is often a reduced notice period during the term of probation.

How Long Does Probation Usually Last?

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. These could be addressed with additional training and support. Regular formal reviews are not, however, compulsory.

The length of the probation period is usually tailored to the type of role. In the case of a 6 month probation period, this is more commonly used for more senior roles. It is uncommon for probation to extend beyond a 3 to 6 month timeframe.


Rights During Probation – UK Law

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 benefits available to contracted employees, such as private medical care.
  • No entitlement to death in service benefit.

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

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

The End of Probation Periods

You would expect to have a formal review at the end of your probation period. However, 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.

It is important in a situation like this to read your contract. If enhanced rights and benefits depand on a review taking place,you should approach your employer to arrange the appropriate review.


Extending Probation Periods

If your employer has said that they want to extend your probation period, check your employment contract. This should say 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 specific circumstances (e.g to have more time to assess your performance).

Your employer cannot extend your probationary period for “protected reasons”. These include:-

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

Sick Leave During Probation

Every employee can suffer illness through no fault of their own. If you become unwell during probation, and need to take sick leave, this is a scenario in which an extension of your probation period is likely. This is because your employer has not yet had chance to fully assess your performance in the role.

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).


Dismissal During Probationary Period

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.

When You Can Claim Unfair Dismissal During Probation

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. For example, 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.

53 thoughts on “Probation Periods at Work – UK Law & Employee Rights

  1. Pancakes says:

    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.

  2. Viz says:

    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?

  3. Slindo says:

    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

  4. pwill says:

    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

  5. SB says:

    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.

  6. Olga says:

    My daughter has just resigned 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?

  7. Sue says:

    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.

  8. Dani says:

    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.

  9. madge says:

    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

  10. KG72 says:

    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?

  11. Darcy says:

    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.

  12. Angry mum says:

    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?

  13. Ethics says:

    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 this could lead to dismissal. Only 1 supervision session throughout this process… no regular feedback, other colleagues not had probation meetings.

  14. Liam17 says:

    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?

  15. Sean says:

    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 ?

  16. Gamara says:

    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?

  17. Caz says:

    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.

  18. Les says:

    I started a job in October 2019 and I was on probation for 26 weeks so this was due to end in may in 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 symptoms I then returned to work . this week I received a letter dated 6th of August stating that my probation was being extended for a further 26 weeks . The letter was given to me on the 12th of August can they do this any help would be greatly appreciated

  19. Nice says:

    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 ibibigay 2 days or 48 hours terminate na po siya. For me parang hindi makatao ginawa lalo na sa pandemic.

  20. Son says:

    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?

  21. Ghost says:

    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>

  22. Jaylen says:

    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 ?

  23. Rachel says:

    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

  24. Kd says:

    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!!!

  25. Lassy1 says:

    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

  26. Unsure says:

    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?

  27. Jessie says:

    I would like to know if you get paid for bank holidays if it falls under the 1 month probationary period. Please note I have not been given a contract yet and there is no handbook. Employer has changed and confirmed after a month later that my probation is 3 months, not 1 month (even though the 1 month was confirmed at interview stage and in an email prior to starting employment), after which I will be given a contract if passed and will get paid for the bank holidays after the 3 months.

  28. Nishal says:

    I’m on a 6 month FTC. My probation period is 3 months. My manager is usually too busy and doesn’t have rarely any time for me. My bosses boss has never had a catch up with me and has apologised to me for being busy.
    My manager has told me his boss isn’t happy with me. My manager has said it’s tough not having experience in this industry. He has implied that his boss is concerned with my performance and I was told about this a week before my probation review and is the first time i have heard of it. I have struggled with certain tasks as I have been working from home and have minimal support.

  29. Stephen brown says:

    Hi after my 3 months probation had just passed and with no reviews or negative feedback, my employee just called me in with no notice and said they are going to extend my probation?

    • Safe Workers says:

      Hi Stephen,

      Your employer can extend your probation period in this way. Hopefully they will have told you of any areas where they feel you need extra support and have a plan to ensure you get extra training. If they have not, it would be worth approaching your manager and asking if they have specific concerns, and making it clear you are motivated to pass probation asap.

  30. Dan Olsen says:

    Hello,

    I started working for my employer on Nov 2019. My probation was extended in April 2020 following a meeting. I was told this would be reviewed in June 2020 but I have not heard anything. Does this mean I have passed probation?

    • Safe Workers says:

      Hello Dan,

      If your employer doesn’t book a review meeting with you prior to the end of your probation period, you pass probation by default. This means you have the same contractual benefits and notice periods as colleagues on permanent contracts. Hope this helps!

  31. Big Al says:

    My probation end date is October 11, but during a meeting with my boss, she said she was going to ask HR if my probation could finish today instead. I don’t know how that sits legally.

    • Safe Workers says:

      Hi Big Al,

      This is absolutely fine, and a positive sign your employer is happy for you to move onto a full contract with them. I’m sure HR will soon give you a copy of your new working contract. Congratulations!

  32. April says:

    Hello! My probation period ended 7 September but my line manager didn’t talk about it if she will end my probation or not. She was on a 2 week leave from 14 September. I asked HR about my probation as I realised it ended. They told me they will check with my line manager when she returns. We talked about it on the 30th of September and she told me she will recommend a 3 month probation extension. Is this right?

    • Safe Workers says:

      Hi April, you pass probation by default if your employer fails to conduct the review meeting at the end of your probation period. You might want to raise this with HR, they should be aware of this. That said, your employer can still let you go for any reason within the first two years of employment, except for reasons related to protected characteristics such as disability, age, or pregnancy.

      Unless there are significant benefits you’d be entitled to on a full contract, it might be worth considering approaching your line manager and ask what performance improvements they need from you to pass probation.

  33. Abi says:

    I think my probation finished on the 28th September but there was no meeting or review. My partner and I have now been asked to vacate our flat which means I can only give two weeks notice as I will have to move back home and will no longer be in the area to work for them or within a reasonable distance to travel. I’m really worried and don’t know what to do.

    • Safe Workers says:

      Hi Abi, If you enquire with your employer about your probation status then explain your problem they will hopefully come to a reasonable agreement with you. Read your contract about what happens if you don’t serve your notice period. If in doubt, have a talk to Citizens Advice or ACAS.

  34. Plshelp says:

    My probation period was 6 months in which I had to give 1 weeks notice. My probation period has never formally ended as my managers have never had the time for any reviews. I have now worked there for a year but wish to leave. Am I still on probation?

    • Safe Workers says:

      Hi There, If your probation meeting did not take place as scheduled then you will normally pass probation by default. It would be best to read over your work contract and employee handbook to see if anything is mentioned about the matter. It may make sense to ask your manager about your probation status first so you can clarify your best course of action to serve your notice period.

  35. Chris says:

    Hello, I was told verbally and in writing that my probation period was to be extended for three months (I have copies of this).

    3 days later and for no clear reason other than they weren’t happy with my performance, they told me they were reneging on the extension.

    Is this legal?

    • Safe Workers says:

      Hi Chris, unfortunately an employer can let you go for no reason within the first two years of your job starting. The only exception to this is if you are dismissed on grounds of a protected characteristic. It’s a shame your employer has treated you like this and not given you a reason for dismissal.

  36. Russell Conway says:

    Hi, I started working for my employer as zero hour contract on the 12th April 2021 and then went full time on 1st June 2021 does my probation period start from 12th April or from 1st June? Thanks.

  37. Simon says:

    I am just moving to a new position within my company that I have worked at for four years. In my offer letter it says I have a three month probation period. What are my rights?

  38. Shruti H says:

    Hi, I’m on probation period for 3 months out of which I’ve completed 1.5 months. I have realized this is not a right fit for me and I would like to leave this job. My contract doesn’t say anything about probationary notice period. What can be done in such case? Thanks!

  39. JR says:

    The deadline passed for my probation however my contract clearly states a letter is required to consider to have passed. Without passing my notice period is 1 week, and with passing it is 1 month.

    What would you consider my notice period to be?

  40. Dave says:

    Hi there,

    I’ve been working at a school and after 6 months of probation had passed I was told I’d passed but the meeting had yet to take place due to my manager being too busy. 3 weeks after my probation was due to end I was off sick for 2 weeks. I was told I’d be paid because I’d passed my probation. We roll on another 4 weeks and I finally get my appraisal and I’ve passed as promised (6 weeks after my end of probation). I get my pay slip this morning and I’m not being paid for sick pay. Where do I stand on this as I’m effectively getting punished for my manager being busy and losing out on alot of money just before Christmas. Thanks

    • Safe Workers says:

      Hi Dave, In the first instance I’d recommend checking with HR / Payroll to see if this has been an admin error. With the sick period being quite close to the end of probation, it is hopefully down to that. If your manager indicated you’d get your sick pay, perhaps raise with them first and ask for assistance. Hope this helps.

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