Although there is no legal requirement to set probationary periods for new employees, doing so provides organisations with a number of opportunities to assess new starters over a set period of time, to ensure their suitability for the role. Probationary periods also allow new recruits to make sure that the role, and organisation, are right for them.
Structuring a probationary period for success
Structuring and effectively managing a probationary period are key and employee progress should be monitored throughout, with management guidance and support provided regularly, at strategic points during the probationary period.
Line Manager involvement
Typically, line managers will have the responsibility of managing new recruits within their probationary period and as such, will need to be adequately skilled and aware of their responsibilities in this area. When it comes to the final probationary review, line managers will need to take appropriate action in either confirming the employee in the role, terminating their employment or, by extending the probationary period – if the employment contract allows for such an extension.
Considerations before ending the probationary period
It is essential that probationary reviews are conducted before the probationary period comes to an end. Failure to do so will mean an employee is confirmed in the role by default and thereby entitled to any contractual rights and benefits (as specified) at the end of the probation period and this is likely to include the right to receive a longer notice period.
Top tips for effective probation periods:
Decide on the appropriate length for a probationary period e.g. 3 or 6 months.
Confirm the probation period and contractual terms that will apply – in writing;
Encourage open dialogue and conduct regular meetings set at specific times during the period;
Explore and overcome problems where possible – with an emphasis on providing support;
Create a record, using a probationary review form and outcome letter;
Note that employees on probation enjoy the same statutory employment rights as other employees – it is length of service which determines an employees’ statutory rights;
Act appropriately if there is a failure to satisfactorily complete the probationary period as it may be connected to pregnancy, family-related leave or sickness;
Confirm to employees in writing when they have passed their probation period;
When taking action to dismiss an employee or extend the probation, ensure this is done before the probationary period expires;
Comply with statutory and contractual notice obligations when terminating employment during a probationary period or, on its expiry.
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