Starting a new career can be a daunting prospect. Adapting to a new workplace and new colleagues is terrifying enough but this can often be compounded by the strict rules you may face in your new role. One such rule may be a probation period.
Probation periods are common in the modern workplace and are often used to allow employers the chance to assess workers before committing to a longer-term relationship with them. But what exactly is a probation period and what do they mean to both businesses and their workforce? Read on to find out.
What Does Probation Period Mean?
A probation period is a trial period of employment at the start of a new role. This means the employee’s role is initially temporary and will only be made permanent subject to the satisfactory completion of the probationary period. A probation period ensures that the new job is working out for both the employee and employer.
Why Do Employers Implement a Probationary Period?
Employers will often carry out a thorough application and interview process for any new role. You can’t, however, always tell from an interview how an employee will perform, or whether they will fit in with the existing staff members. A probationary period lets both the employee and employer see if the job is a good fit for both parties.
How Long Do Probation Periods Normally Last?
A probation period will commonly last anywhere between 3 and 12 months, though they can be as little as 1 week in some short-term contracts. In most workplaces, a 6-month period is commonly used.
Legally the duration of any probation period must not be unreasonable. Performance reviews are common during this period. This gives both the employee and employer an opportunity to discuss concerns and look at how the transition to the new role can be made easier. Problems during a probation period are often addressed with additional training and support. These regular formal reviews are, however, not compulsory.
What Does the Law State About Employee Rights During Probation?
The statutory rights of an employee start on the first day of employment, regardless of any probation period. However, the contract of employment during this period may give you less favourable terms than after the period has finished. Employment terms that may be different during a probation period include:
- A shorter notice period for both employee and employer.
- Limited entitlement to benefits available to other contracted employees, such as bonuses and pension access.
- No entitlement to death in service benefit, if available.
It’s important to note that any less favourable terms must not infringe on an employee’s general statutory employment rights under UK law, which include:
- A right to be paid at or above the National Minimum Wage.
- A right to accrue holiday and receive holiday pay.
- A right to a periodic itemized pay statement.
- The enforcement of working time regulations.
- Protection against workplace discrimination.
Unfair dismissal claims can still be brought by workers during any probation period albeit in a more limited range of circumstances.
Do I Have to Give Notice During a Probation Period?
The short answer is yes. It is still important to give notice during a probation period. Often, however, notice periods are shorter during probation. The details of any notice period will be given in your contract of employment.
What Happens at the End of Probation?
At the end of a probation period, an employee should receive a meeting with either a manager or HR representative. During the meeting, the performance of the employee will be discussed.
There can be 3 outcomes from an end of probation meeting, these are:
- The employee can pass probation. This will lead to them becoming a full members of staff with all the rights of other employees.
- The employee can have the probation period extended. We will look into this event later in the article
- The employee is informed that they have not passed probation. This will lead to employment coming to an end.
What if Probation Ends and You Get No Confirmation That You’ve Passed?
If you are not told during your probation period that it is to be extended, or that you have failed your probation, you are deemed to have passed by default. It is important in a situation like this to read your contract. If enhanced rights and benefits depend on a review taking place, you should approach your employer to arrange the appropriate review.
What Happens if My Probation is Extended?
If your employer has said that they want to extend your probation period, you will be told for how long. You should also be given a reason and a roadmap as to how you can meet the requirements to pass.
It’s important to check your employment contract for details as to how probation extensions are handled. This should state under what circumstances your probationary period can be extended, and for how long. Your employer can only extend your probation period if your employment contract says that they can do this.
Are There Any Reasons Where My Employer Cannot Extend My Probation Legally?
Your employer cannot extend your probationary period for a variety of protected reasons, including:
- Because of ethnicity, religion or cultural background.
- Because of gender, age or marital status.
What Happens After Passing Probation?
After passing probation you will become a permanent member of staff at the business. You may need to sign a new contract but make sure you read and understand the terms of your employment before signing.
Can I Take Sick Leave During Probation?
Yes, you can. Every employee can suffer an illness through no fault of their own. If you become unwell during probation, then you are allowed to take sick leave. It’s important to note, however, that this scenario often leads to an extension of the probation period.
As an Employer, Are There any Tech Solutions That Can Help with Probation?
Yes, there are. These days there are a variety of HR software tools that allow you to manage the probation periods of staff. These will often remind managers of when to perform reviews, store performance information about the employee, and track attendance and other metrics pertinent to a staff members ability to pass the probationary period.
We hope you have enjoyed our guide to probation periods. For more useful workplace guides, check out the rest of our website.
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