Most people are familiar with probationary periods in employment, but there is often some confusion about how they work and the best way to manage employees during the probationary period.
Here is a summary of the relevant factors with regard to the probationary period
Even before someone has started work, a prospective employee already has certain rights.
When your business posts a job vacancy on a jobs board on-line, with a recruitment agency or even in the window of the newsagents you need to be aware of employment law.
Under the Equality Act 2010, prospective employees have the right not to be discriminated against.
How do you ensure you’re not discriminating?
Have a look at your job adverts. Do do they specify an age bracket, the sex of the candidate, or even how many years’ experience you want someone to have? If they do, you could be leaving yourself open to discrimination claims. Does someone really need to have 5 years’ experience doing that job for them to be able to work for you? Or do you need someone who has good experience and good knowledge? Stating how many years’ experience you need for someone to do the job could be classed as age discrimination.
From the first day of employment, employees have a number of rights that will protect them.
Here’s a selection of those rights:
After a month, employees get a few more rights thrown in the mix. They are:
When you get to this point, your employees are legally entitled to a written statement of particulars. You don’t have to give them a full-blown contract, but you would need to give them this statement. It would include the main terms of their employment; like their pay, what hours they work, when they are expected to come into work, what their holiday entitlement is, and what other benefits you offer, like a pension.
We’ve established the rights that people have in their first few months as an employee, but what are the rules around probationary periods? Actually, there aren’t any. There’s no law to say how long a probationary period should be. But it should be reasonable. Typically, probationary periods are three months or six months. The important thing to remember is to use that time to train and performance manage your employee.
Yes, is the short answer. But you’d really need to look at why you’re extending it. Are you delaying the inevitable? We’d only advise that you extend someone’s probationary period when there’s a good reason to. For example, if your employee was off sick for a month during the probationary period you might consider extending the probationary period by a month to consider allowing them time to gain experience and training in the role.
There are going to be a number of situations where you’ll need to dismiss an employee before they have finished their probationary period.
If you’ve given the employee the necessary training and tools to do their job and communicated how they need to improve and they are still under performing, then you will need to consider terminating their employment.
If there’s no chance of improvement, or they’ve shown no improvements at all, even though you’ve given them the opportunity to do it, then setting them free might be the right thing to do. It’s not a nice thing to have to do, but be honest with yourself; can your business carry someone who isn’t performing? Is it fair on your other staff? Is it fair on the individual themselves to allow them to believe that they are performing well?
Good practice would be to invite the employee to a meeting to explain the reasons you’ve made the decision to dismiss them. Follow this up with a letter to confirm the decision. and set out some reasons i.e. “your performance did not meet the standards required”. Failing a probationary period is a difficult situation for you and your employee. Dealing with this situation with empathy and using the right tone can really help keep things under control.
A good way of finding out a bit more about someone you intend to employ, is by sending a reference request to their previous employer. Download our free reference request template.