Probationary Arrangements - What Are They, and When Are They Necessary?

What Is A Probationary Period?

There are two types of people in the world that could be on probation: those who are trying to avoid prison and those trying to avoid getting dismissed from a job. The commonality in both these groups of people is that they will undergo a period of scrutinization where their behaviors and performance are monitored and recorded for final analysis and evaluation.

However, a probationary arrangement for the latter is far less intense and can be mutually beneficial for both parties involved - employers and employees! 

In this article, we shall discuss the details of a probationary arrangement, provide a walkthrough of the process, and give answers to common questions involving the practice.

What Is a Probationary Period?

A probationary period is an arrangement between an employer and, usually, a new employee. In his arrangement, a set amount of time is allocated for the employee to work in the role before being fully integrated into the company.

This can be a crucial part of the hiring process where trialing the employee happens before officially assimulating them into the workforce. During this time, vital information can be obtained, and problem areas identified for both employers and employees, such as issues regarding work performance and company fit. Decisions can then be made to address these issues, which may involve further training or outright dismissal.

How Should Employers Set Out Probationary Periods?

In general, probationary periods are enacted by a clause within the employment contract that a new employee would have signed when they accepted the job. In the contract, clear outlines should have been set regarding the terms of the probationary period. This would include things like:

  • The length of the probationary period

  • The notice to be applied during the probationary period (a minimum of one week for a new employee by statutory law)

  • The method of assessment that determines the passing or failing of the probationary period

  • Written confirmation of passing the probationary period

Employers should ensure that new employees are made fully aware and understand the terms of the probationary period clause along with its implications.

How Should a Probationary Period Be Managed?

It is important that employers also inform new employees about the methods of assessment during the probationary period and talk through the criteria laid out in the contract. Areas to be assessed should include:

  • Employee performance – achieving goals and standards

  • Behavior and conduct – professionalism and team integration

  • Skills and experience – demonstration of capability

The line manager or supervisor is often tasked with monitoring and recording progress in these areas during this time. These observations are then compiled in a performance report for a review that takes place at the end of the probationary period. It is also at this junction where an extension of the probationary period can be permitted if it is deemed necessary.

How Do I Dismiss an Employee During the Probationary Period?

Dismissals are a difficult and delicate situation under any circumstances but are usually much more legally complicated outside of a probationary period. This is one advantage of a probationary period, as new employees during this time are usually exempt from the full protection of a company dismissal procedure. Nevertheless, it is still crucial that the dismissal be dealt with fairly and reasonably. It is advised that the standard disciplinary procedure is still adhered to, and a dismissal checklist should be followed when dismissing an employee.

Fair procedures may include a series of informal chats leading up to a final formal meeting. By doing this, records will be made of these talks before termination. These records may come in handy should you ever need to produce evidence that demonstrates real reasons behind the dismissal if they are challenged. 

Employees under probation still have the legal right to claim automatic unfair dismissal, so it is imperative that employers follow the dismissal procedure carefully or risk the case being escalated to an Employment Tribunal.

How Long Should a Probation Period Be?

Although there are no set rules or laws regarding the length of a probationary period, some typical time scales are reasonably long enough to determine the suitability of a new employee – these are around six months for new employees and three months for internal hires moving to new posts.

It is required that employees be realistic in their expectations and give ample time and opportunity for new employees to demonstrate their full capabilities.

Can I Extend a Probationary Period?

If it is permissible under contractual stipulations, probationary periods can be extended if found to be necessary upon review. There are many grounds on which extension may be possible for appropriate circumstances. One such example may be that the employee under probation was absent for nearly all, or a significant majority, of the probationary period due to sickness or maternity leave.

At this point, employers should set out the new terms of probation and extension using a probation letter that clearly states:

  • The length of the extension and the revised end date of the probationary period

  • Detailed reasons for the extension

  • The performance standards and objectives required to be achieved by the employee by the revised end date

  • Any additional support or training that will be provided during the extension

  • That failure to meet the required standards by the end of the extension would result in termination of employment for the employee

How Do I Pass an Employee's Probation?

After a performance review has taken place and the decision is made to retain an employee, written confirmation should be given to the employee declaring that they have successfully passed their probation period in compliance with the contractual clause. This will be an official document that moves both employer and employee to the next steps of full integration within the company role.

For more content like this, check out our other informative blogs or contact Lanteria today for technological solutions to streamline your HR processes! With our all-in-one HR management platform, you can easily track probation and upload documentation.


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