Our guide to an employee’s probation period

Having a probation period for any new employee ensures that the output, conduct, attendance and timekeeping for all new employees is assessed fairly and equally. It also allows the employers to ensure the employee has demonstrated they can fulfil the role required of them or highlight areas needed for improvement, with training perhaps.  

What is a probation period?  

A probation period is the period of time at the start of an employment when an employee may be dismissed with little or no notice if they’re found to be unsuitable for the role. It’s very normal to include probation periods – typically three to six months in length – within any new employment contract.Generally it is role dependent; a country manager may have six months.  

Why have a probation period?  

A formal probation period ensures that:  

  • The performance, conduct, attendance, timekeeping and training/support needs of all new employees to the Company is assessed fairly, consistently and equally across the organisation.  
  • Managers provide new employees with the appropriate support, guidance, training, encouragement and feedback.  
  • Both Managers and probationers understand the purpose of the probation. 

How does it work?  

During the probation period, the Line Manager will pay attention to the performance of the employee and will keep them informed of their progress. It is the Line Manager’s responsibility to ensure that the new employee is inducted (usually during their first week but ideally on their first day) and given the relevant information necessary to enable them to do their work.  

The Line Managers should clarify the duties and responsibilities of the new employee, in line with their job description. Objectives of the job should be outlined to the employee and will be monitored and measured and the employee should be told how frequently this will be done. Finally, any relevant training should be provided and dates for further reviews during the probation period discussed. 

Reviews throughout the probation period 

The probation period should include a number of reviews where two-way communication can take place between the Line Manager and the employee. The reviews are to ensure a good working relationship is formed and feedback on the employee’s progress is provided.  

We advise that probation forms should be completed to ensure a record of each review is kept for future reference if necessary.  

Confirming appointment  

If the employee’s performance has met the company’s standards for that job then the Line Manager should confirm the appointment of the employee for that role. The employee should receive this confirmation in writing.   

Occasionally, there may be an instance when the company is not satisfied with the performance of the employee and the Line Manager should seek advice from Human Resources in this instance. We can provide this support and guidance when this occurs.  

It may be so that the probation period may need to be extended due to:  

  • The new employee not performing to the expected standards, 
  • The new employee has had sickness or other authorised absence.  

Any extension of the probation period should not exceed three months in total. We advise that during the last month of the extended period, the Line Manager should meet with the employee formally to review their progress. If satisfied then the appointment can be confirmed, if not then the Line Manager will inform the employee and make a recommendation that the appointment be terminated.  

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