Try Before You Buy?

When taking on new staff, employers have a choice as to whether to give a probation period or not. And if they do put a probation period into the contract of employment, they can (within reason) choose how long to make the probation period.

As advisors we generally recommend a 6 month probation period, but why do we do this?

Taking on a new member of staff involves finding the right person, offering them the right package and training them up as quickly as possible so that they are adding value to your business. All this takes time and money, so is giving them a probation period a sign of lack of trust, or a sensible precaution?

A probation period is designed to be a period of training, immersion in the company and it’s culture and an opportunity for a new employee to find their feet, learn their role and thrive. Most people pass through their probation period with no problems at all. Employers sometimes don’t even remember to confirm employment at the end of the probation period. But what happens when things don’t go to plan? How should employers deal with a failing employee within their probation period? And is it always the fault of the employee?


When an employee joins the company, they should be given an induction programme aimed at giving them all the information they need as quickly as possible. Examples of things which are commonly included are a health and safety briefing, meetings with key people within the business, organisational charts, copies of company policies and procedures and attendance at company, service or product specific training courses.

An intensive induction programme could take anything from one day to three months, depending on the nature of the business and any specific cyclical activities.

Regular 121s

As the line manager of a new employee, it is important to have regular 121s with your new team member. This may be work related, but should also include time to talk about them, their experiences within the business, their progress and any concerns they might have. This is an opportunity to identify any additional training or support needs or to amend workload and expectations (upwards as well as downwards).

Mid Probation Review

Regardless of how long the probation period, half way through you should have a more formal review which is properly documented. This is an opportunity to measure performance against objectives, to set objectives for the rest of the probation period and to ensure that progress is being made.

End of Probation Review

This should be a formal meeting along the lines of an appraisal. The meeting should take place 2 weeks before the end of the probation period. There are three possible outcomes:

  • The Employee Passes their probation period and is confirmed in role
  • The Employee Fails their probation period and a termination process starts
  • The Probation Period is extended in line with the contractual terms

Over to You

What is your experience of probation periods? You may be a line manager or an employee? Have they worked? Do they support the employee? Do they offer the business an opportunity to try before you buy?

Back to Us

When taking on staff, it is essential that the employment contract is robust and that there are adequate provisions for a probation period. If you do need to terminate employment, it is essential that you do it legally or you could end up with a discrimination claim.

For help and support with all contract and probation issues, contact us on [email protected] or call 01923 504100

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