Probationary Periods

A probationary period is a period set out by an employer so they can assess whether an employee is suitable for that role. It therefore allows the employer to terminate the employee’s contract if they deem them not suitable for that role within the probationary period as defined in the employee’s contract.


With probationary periods, they tend to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Usually, they are 3 or 6 months depending on the employer so it can give them time to assess the performance and skill set of that new employee to be sure that they are right for that role. For example, if a job requires a high skill set, you’ll commonly find that the employer will set a longer probationary period so that they can be sure that the employee can fulfil that job role. For the higher skilled job roles, you can expect to see a probationary period of 6 months.


Probationary periods for are for both the employer and employee, this is so that within this period the employee can decide whether they feel they fit that role without committing to anything with that employer. It also works on behalf of the employer as they can see whether the employee is fitted to that job role. If any of them felt, they weren’t suited this is where the employer can terminate the employees’ contract within that probationary period.


One aspect that employers usually get confused on, is that employees don’t get any statutory rights while within their probationary period. This is incorrect; an employee has all statutory rights upon their first day of employment within a company.


It’s vital that you as an employer ensure that the employee is aware that they have a probationary period. The way this should be defined is in writing in the employee’s contract of employment. As well as this, as an employer you can carry out review meetings, however the employee should be made aware of these. Whenever a meeting takes place, this should be recorded as well as what was discussed which both parties should name and sign. This should be then put into the employee’s file.


As employers remember one thing, probationary periods are not a legal requirement within a contract of employment. You don’t have to offer one if you don’t want too, but it’s good practise to do so and is there to legally help you if the employee isn’t right for that job they were recruited for!