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What is a probationary period?

A probationary period is the time at the beginning of an individual’s employment where you assess whether an employee is suitable for the role they are employed to do.  It is also a two-way street; the employee will be seeing if the role is right for them!

How long should a probationary period be?

This will vary depending on the type of role and sometimes seniority.  However, the time set should be realistically long enough for you to able to assess suitability for the role.  Usually, they will last for anything from 3-6 months with a possibility of extension.

Can a probationary period be extended?

Yes, and ideally the clause in the employment contract will state how long probation can be extended by.

Does the employee need to be informed that their probationary period is being extended?

Yes, ideally this will be in writing and will confirm what they need to do to improve to fully meet the requirements of the role.

What are notice periods during probation?

They are usually less than once probation has been passed.  These should be set out in the contract of employment.  Legally the notice periods are with less than one month’s notice, no notice is required, over 1 month’s service 1 week is required (up until they reach 2 years continuous service) but you may want or need more notice than this either way and this will be stated in the contract.

Can some elements of their contract be delayed until after passing probation, for example additional company sick pay entitlement?

Yes, this should be laid out in their contract.

What should I be doing during the probation period?

Ideally you will have an induction plan, set out your expectations of the role clearly, have regular review meetings and communicate any concerns early on in the probation period.

What should I do at the end of the probationary period?

You should confirm whether the employee has passed their probationary period or not.  If they have passed, then highlighted the changes to their terms and conditions following this (usually notice periods which should be laid out in their contract).

How do I terminate a contract when someone is on probation?

You can dismiss at any point but ideally you would give an employee a chance to improve after raising concerns with them.  You do not necessarily need to go through the formal process of holding a meeting with them unless you have a contractual policy that states you will.  You should also consider doing this if there is any risk at all of a discrimination claim based on a protected characteristic (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation).  The other risk is whether there is a claim or automatically unfair dismissal (e.g., because they raised a health and safety issue, have asked for a legal right, are pregnant or have been involved in whistleblowing).  If none of these risks are present, then an employee will not have the length of service for an unfair dismissal claim.

Should I allow a right to appeal the decision?

There is little point in doing so unless you think you could be risk of a discrimination claim or an automatically unfair dismissal claim as above.

Can I terminate after probation?

Yes, there is little risk of doing so up until 2 years of employment as long as you have no contractual process that you should follow and there are no other risks.  As above consider risks of discrimination claims or automatically unfair dismissal claims before taking any action.  After 2 years of employment, you would need to follow a full process.