How to Manage Employee Probationary Periods
About probationary periods
A probationary period is a trial period of employment for a new employee. You are not legally bound to use probationary periods when employing people although it is recommended. You can set the length of the probationary period in the employment contract. A three-month probationary period is typical for unskilled, clerical or junior roles and six months for management or professional roles.
During the probationary period
The probationary period is for both the new employee and the line manager/company to look at whether a good match has been made for the role. This period should be closely monitored and regular feedback given to the new employee in relation to how well they are fitting into their role. This, along with a good induction, will greatly improve the chances of your new employee settling well into their role and becoming a valued member of your team.
If any issues identify themselves early on in the employment these should be addressed straight away rather than waiting until the end of the probationary period.
Assessing the probationary period
Prior to the end of the probationary period a probationary review meeting should be held with the employee. Note that if you do not have this meeting by the agreed probationary period end date, it will result in the employee automatically passing their probationary period by default.
When reviewing the employee’s probationary period you should consider:
* The quality and accuracy of their work
* Their efficiency
* Their skills and knowledge
* Their attendance and timekeeping
* Their working relationships
Options at the end of the probationary period
At the end of the probationary period you have 3 options:
1. Confirm their successful appointment
If you find your new employee’s performance to be satisfactory then you should confirm their successful appointment to the role in writing.
2. Extend their probationary period
If you find your new employee’s performance is not satisfactory but you think they may reach the required standard with appropriate support and / or training, you can extend their probationary period (normally for up to 3 months). You should discuss the reasons for this with the employee and agree a plan for improvement, including any actions that the employee and you will take.
The extension should be confirmed in writing specifying what is expected from them during the extended probationary period and when the extended period will end. If additional training or support for the employee has been agreed, it is advisable to state this in the written confirmation. It is also important to state that should the employee not meet the required standards during this extended period, their employment will be terminated.
3. Terminate their employment
If you find your new employee’s performance is not satisfactory and it is clear that further training or support will not aid the employee in meeting the required standards, then you may need to consider dismissal. Employers should use a fair and consistent procedure when dismissing an employee and seek qualified HR guidance if they are unsure at any stage.