How to manage probationary periods

 

What is a probationary period?

 

Used as a trial period in employment for your new starters or anyone newly promoted. In the main, the periods used would be either 3, 6 or in some cases up to 1 year. They can offer the opportunity to assess the skills, performance, attitude and aptitude of your employee within the timeframe.

 

During the period of probation your employee would be exempt from contractual clauses set by you, during the period this may include notice periods, although worth noting all employees have the statutory right to one weeks notice period and other statutory rights will exist.

 

Other benefits may be excluded during the period too as long as these are contractual.
Your contract could, however, contain terms which only apply during your probationary period and which are less favourable than those which apply when your probationary period has ended. These terms must not take away your statutory rights.

It is also important to remember that once your employee has started work, the number of weeks they have worked begins on the day they started, not from the time when the probationary period ended and that any contractual rights also started from their first day of work, unless you add this to the contract.

 

What options do you have when things go wrong?

Terminating the employment is the obvious option and you have the right to do so, it is important to take into consideration basic factors some of which are here:
When on the probation period although they won’t have worked for you long enough to qualify for unfair dismissal protection, they are still protected against harassment and dismissal for ‘protected reasons’ such as, sex, age, gender, ethnicity, disability, religion and cultural background.

You could also fall foul during this time, where you have not followed the contractual dismissal process, in this case protection for wrongful dismissal would apply.

 

So what would be reasonable grounds to terminate

There are various reasons you can chose from and it can be said that the area is a little grey to say the least, I always suggest providing the individual with a reason.

You should be monitoring the progress during the period and discussing this on a regular basis, that should be a number one priority – common reasons for failing at probation would include:

 

 Lack of skills within the role
 Poor performance levels
 Poor attendance or timekeeping
 Personality clashes and poor fit

When considering any of these options your internal processes still should be followed with your employee, your communication should be effective your internal procedures followed.

 

An alternative would be to extend the probationary period

Where you may feel your employee may need more time you can offer an extension, there is no legislation around limiting the length of probation periods, it can be unfair at times to have unrealistic expectations by adding further extensions and these should be avoided.

Where an extension is granted you would most certainly at this stage set objectives and goals with a clear action plan. This would need to be reviewed regularly to guarantee it is being maintained.

 

What happens at the end?

In an ideal situation either when your employee is sucessful at the first stage or offered an extension and successfully completes this you would make the offer of a permanent position.
At the end of the extended period if there is no improvement you can still terminate.

 

Are your probation terminations high?

It may be time you addressed your recruitment process, some standard recruitment methods which result in a one-one interview fail, you may want to try other options.

Do you panic when recruiting – this is a vicious cycle, recruitment planning takes time, do you need to think ahead.
Is it the individual or the role itself – this happens a lot, a role is created or offered, then the physiological contract is shattered in week 1, this is by both parties as neither knew what was expected.

 

The employee simply doesn’t want to stay, a probationary period is a 2 way process, exit interviews should be conducted to establish why they are not staying in the role.

 

How can you manage your employee during their probationary period

The ultimate aim of the recruitment process is retention, you need to ensure you have an effective framework and support mechanism in place.

 

Your framework needs to consist of the relevant and up to date:
 Policies
 Procedures
 Documents

You need to communicate these to your new employee in the most effective way, where you need to issue any documents such as T&C or Employee Handbooks ensure you do this, it forms part of the physiological contract.

A solid support mechanism for your new employees needs to:

 Help them to understand what is expected of them within the role and the business
 Who to speak to if they have a problem or need support
 Where to get key information from when they need it
 How to get the support they need

 

You also need to develop their knowledge and skills needed to fulfil their new role, through any training they may need.
An initial review to set all of this up, usually around induction time is ideal, you can then build the framework, support and training around that; not forgetting to add review periods along the way.

You may be surprised at how you could lower your attrition rates by reducing the turnover in the probationary period.

 

 

We have extensive experience managing, developing and supporting our clients with their employees, we do not just provide telephone assistance and documentation, our services guarantee you get the best from your employees.
Contact us anytime, we are always happy to support you.

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