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I don’t think I can say it enough times, probationary periods are very useful. They may not be employment law, but in terms of HR, we always find that it’s better to have one than not.

Since the introduction of the Good Work Plan its been important to include in the contract of employment whether there is a probationary period and if so how long is it.

The clause should also outline the employers right to extend the probationary period or to terminate during or at the end of it.

There are several misconceptions around probationary period.

It’s a mistake to think that employment doesn’t really commence till the end of the probationary period. It’s also a mistake to save issuing the written statement of terms and conditions until the probationary period is complete. The issue of this document is now a day one right.

During probationary period

The employer should have systems for assessing the employee’s suitability and competence during their probation.  Also ensure from the outset that the employee is aware that their suitability is being monitored throughout the probationary period. However we would not make these contractual.

We recommend you meet regularly during their probation and that you document the conversations.

If the probationary period expires without monitoring, the employee will have successfully completed their probationary period by default. See Przybylska v Modus Telecom Ltd, 2007.

Ideally the end of the probationary period should be diarised and a review meeting held before that date. Here you can discuss how well their probation has gone. If an employee’s performance is satisfactory, the employer should write to the employee confirming their employment and completion of the probationary period.

Extending the probationary period

Probationary periods can be extended. For example a further period of three or six months if it says so in the Written Statement of Terms and Conditions. The employer should explain the reason for the extension and what the employee needs to improve in order to pass their probation.

If you need any assistance when managing an employee in the probationary period, please give us a call on 01527 909436.