Top Tips on Effective Probation Periods

Employee probation periods

What are probation periods?

An employment probation period is a trial period for new employees. Probation periods allow employers to deal with any early problems legally, with minimal fuss and minimal risk.

A probationary period should be an essential part of your recruitment process. But, many employers don’t use them to their full potential.

Here are some tips for effective employee probation.

When to use a probation period

You should only use probationary periods for new starters.

If a team member is moving to a new role, performance should be managed in the context of your existing processes.

How long should probation periods be?

We suggest a probationary period of at least 6 months to allow enough time to evaluate performance. Whilst someone can keep up an act for 3 months, after 6 you’ll have much greater knowledge of them.

If you decide you want them to stay before 6 months is up, you can always confirm them in post earlier. And don’t forget to drop them a line to share the good news!

If you’re not sure about an employee after 6 months, you can extend the probationary period.

Probationary meetings and reviews

  • Set performance goals, and be clear with new employees how their performance will be monitored and measured.
  • Have regular meetings with your new employee to discuss progress.
  • Ensure clear communication of review dates, required actions and potential consequences .
  • Record all probationary meetings. Where possible, ask your employee to sign and agree meeting notes.
  • Always give honest feedback and don’t avoid difficult conversations. The longer you leave something,  the harder it will be to manage. Give people every opportunity to correct mistakes.

Ensure you don’t fail to hold probationary meetings or confirm a new employee in post. After the final review date, an employees probation will be deemed to be complete in the absence of any contrary evidence.

What happens if a new employee doesn’t work out?

If you’re in doubt about a new employee, don’t take them on.

If you’re considering ending the contract of a new employee, ensure you tell them in advance that their final probationary meeting might result in a decision not to confirm them in post.

Make sure if you’re considering ending their contract, they’re allowed to bring along a trade union representative or colleague to the meeting.

Following dismissal, ensure prompt communication of the reasons why. Employees should be allowed to appeal.

Unfair dismissal and the two-year rule

Employees only have the right to claim unfair dismissal after more than 2 years employment. 

However, there are several reasons for dismissal set out in legislation which are automatically classed as unfair. For these, a 2 year qualifying period does not apply. These include:

  • family-related reasons, such as pregnancy, maternity leave, adoption leave or paternity leave
  • refusing to give up a right under the Working Time Regulations 1998
  • whistleblowing
  • acting to enforce the right to be paid the national minimum wage or other statutory rights due
  • trade union membership or activities
  • a TUPE transfer (where the reason is not an economic, technical or organisational reason entailing changes in the workforce)
  • discrimination under the equalities Act 2010
  • acting due to health and safety issues

How to avoid claims for Wrongful Dismissal

To avoid a claim for Wrongful Dismissal it is also important to follow your statutory obligations or contractual terms. You should:

  • provide the correct notice periods or payment in lieu of notice. The legal minimum during probation is nil during the first month, and thereafter 1 week during the first two years. Or your contractual notice periods if these are longer.
  • calculate and pay for statutory annual leave accrued but not taken. Statutory annual leave accrues from day 1 of employment
  • pay any additional pro rata company annual leave allowance entitlements
  • ensure payment of outstanding expenses or other benefits or statutory payments due

If you’d like advice on staff Probationary Periods, or other related HR issues, , we’d be happy to help. Call Debbie today on 01278 802329.

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