Fired During Probation Period – Can You Fight it? When’s it Unfair?

It’s common to worry about being fired during a probation period. A work trial can be an anxious time, and worries around making mistakes can lead to fears of dismissal.

During a probationary period, notice periods and disciplinary procedures can be much shorter. But what can you do if your fears of being sacked are realised? Can you fight the dismissal process?

Workers on probation who have less than 2 years service have fewer rights to claim unfair dismissal. However, there are still some reasons for being fired that are automatically unfair. It’s also possible to make a wrongful dismissal claim while on probation if your employer has breached your contract.

Our guide looks at your employment rights if you get fired during your probation period. We’ll look at what usually happens and if you might be able to appeal your dismissal.

Can You be Fired on Probation?

You can be fired during your probationary period at work. The purpose of probation is to let the employer see how you perform and if the role is a good fit.

If you are sacked during your probation, it should not come out of the blue. Your employer should be conducting regular performance reviews. These should identify any weak areas and offer support to improve.

Reasons to be Dismissed

It’s very uncommon to be sacked for no reason during your work probation. There are usually reasons why your employer feels you are not the right fit for the job.

Fair reasons to be sacked include:-

  • Poor performance.
  • Not fitting in with the rest of the team.
  • Disciplinary issues such as bad behaviour or poor attitude.
  • Timekeeping issues.
  • Excessive or unauthorised absences.

A good employer will discuss any performance issues with you, and you should be given opportunity to improve. If your employer fires you out of the blue without giving you a chance to improve, it is a sign of a poor culture within the business.

Whilst it’s little consolation, it would be better to avoid a long term career with a company prepared to treat staff in this way.

Bright HR outlines best practise for dismissing employees during probation.

Can You Be Sacked For Calling in Sick?

Being sacked for time off sick during probation is possible if your absences are excessive and make your employer question your reliability.

However, if you ensure you follow company procedure, and communicate effectively with your manager it shouldn’t be a big issue. You might get an extension to your probation period, which is not a sign you are about to be sacked. Any extension would likely be for the same number of days you had off work sick, to give you an opportunity to demonstrate competence for the role.

If you were to be sacked during probation for sickness related to a disability, this could be unfair dismissal.

Unfair Dismissal During Probationary Period

Although employees don’t have the same protections against unfair dismissal during the first two years of employment, you can still be unfairly dismissed during probation.

Some reasons for dismissal are automatically unfair and might mean you could claim compensation at an employment tribunal.

You can be unfairly sacked during probation on grounds of:-

  • Religion.
  • Sex.
  • Gender – after reassignment surgery.
  • Sexuality.
  • Pregnancy or maternity leave related absence.
  • Disability.
  • Age.
  • Marital Status.

A very common concern is worry about being sacked for being pregnant during probation.  Trial periods at work can be as long as 6 months, and a lot can happen in that time. You are protected from dismissal on pregnancy grounds from day one of your employment.

If you think you’ve been dismissed for an automatically unfair reason such as those above, you may wish to seek legal advice.

Can I be Sacked After Probation Ends?

You can still be sacked after the end of your probation period. However, after you have passed probation you will usually have the right to a longer notice period.

You do not have full protection from unfair dismissal until you have been with your employer for more than 2 years. Unfair dismissal is classed as being fired without your employer following proper procedures.

A good employer will always follow proper procedure when dismissing staff. This means that being fired should never come as a complete surprise.

Dismissed on Probation – Your Rights

If you are sacked during probation, you still have employment rights. After more than a month of employment, you are entitled to a notice period.

If you have accrued holiday pay, this should be included in your final wage.

Right of Appeal Against Dismissal on Probation

Your right to appeal dismissal is limited during probation. The right to ask your employer to reconsider will be at their discretion.

Discuss this with your line manager, or have a look at your employee handbook to see if this is mentioned. Some companies do offer the right to appeal being sacked before two years service.

Even if your employer does not offer this, you have nothing to lose by drawing their attention to a compelling reason why their decision was wrong.

Notice Periods

First of all, check your contract of employment to see what your rights to a notice period are. If you have no contract, or notice is not mentioned, you have the right to statutory notice.

If you’ve been employed for less than a month, unfortunately you have no right to notice. This means you can be dismissed with immediate effect.

After a month of employment and up until two years, statutory notice is at least one week. If your employer does not wish you to work your notice period, you must be paid for it in your final wage packet.

If your employer fails to pay your contractual or statutory notice period, you will be able to take action against them for wrongful dismissal during probation. This is different to unfair dismissal in that it relates to a breach of your employment contract.

Holiday Pay

You start to accrue holiday pay from day 1 of your employment. If you are dismissed, your employer will have to pay you for any outstanding holiday entitlement in your final wage.

Check your employment contract to see what company holiday pay you are entitled to. If there’s nothing in your contract, you will be entitled to statutory holiday pay. Do note that even if your contract says  you aren’t entitled to holiday pay in your probation period, your employer must still pay you for holidays.

For more on holiday pay entitlements see the ACAS website.

What To Do Next If You’ve Been Sacked

If you’ve been sacked during probation, you’ll understandably be feeling upset and wondering what to do next.

First of all, give yourself a break. Failing probation is not uncommon. Studies suggest up to 20% of employees are let go. This is not a reflection on your overall abilities, and it need not affect your employability in future if you approach it positively.

Here’s my top 3 things to do after failing probation:-

  • Take some time to understand why you failed. If there was a reason for dismissal that was a genuine personal weakness, it will benefit you to address it before seeking your next job.
  • Reach out to your old employer and ask about references. This is something you’re probably worried about. So just ask them what your reference will say, as this will help you prepare for interviews and landing your next job.
  • Decide how you’re going to explain your reasons for leaving your job to a new employer. This question is very likely to come up at interview, and if you deal with it smoothly it needn’t be a huge issue. Understanding what your reference from your old employer will say is a big part of this.

Ultimately, being sacked can feel like a huge failure. Try not to take it personally, there are other roles out there that will suit your abilities. The quicker you can dust yourself off and update your CV, the better.


Can you be fired for being pregnant while on probation?

Being fired for being pregnant during probation would be an automatically unfair reason for dismissal. You have maternity rights from day one of your employment, even if you were already pregnant when your job began.

Can you be fired for being sick on probation?

You could be fired for excessive absences during your probation period, however the more likely outcome is that your employer would extend your probation period. Most workplaces will extend probation by the same number of sick days you took off. This allows them adequate time to assess your performance.

Can you be fired without warning on probation?

It’s good practise to follow a dismissal procedure, and give employees a warning before firing them. However, employers are under no legal obligation to warn you before dismissal during probation.

Does failing probation mean I was sacked?

If you failed your probation period, then the next step your employer will usually take is dismissal. Some workplaces may allow you to appeal a probation failure, however they’re not under any obligation to do so.

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