Probation Periods: Letting Go Can Be Easier Than Holding On

Underestimating how to use the probation periods properly is an essential part of effective employee management.

Probation periods are very beneficial to an employer. I don’t know why more people don’t have them in place. When you bring an employee on board, and for whatever reason, they’re just not working out, you’ve got the probation period to dismiss them in. And just let them go. Because holding on is worse than letting go sometimes.

Probation periods are very beneficial to an employer

If you’ve been working with a new employee through the recruitment process, but they haven’t been working out, you can let them go. Call them into a meeting, “Hey, look, we’ve gone through this. We’ve looked at this. Unfortunately, we’re going to file you; terminating employment within the probation period.” Pay them their weeks’ notice, and off they go. Simple as that. Just let them go.

But there are timeframes within the probation periods to file.

The requirement is five months for an employer with over 15 staff. Because you’ve got to include the notice period time within that as well, altogether, it would be five months and one week. You would know within those five months if they were a keeper or not.

Once you make your mind up don’t think that they might improve because if they’re not working out after you’ve worked with them, they’re not going to work out down the line.

You’re much better off letting them go as early as possible rather than later on before they’ve embedded themself in your culture before they can damage your business.

Probation periods depend on the size of your business. Looking at the minimum in terms of employment, or the minimum employment period, if you’ve got one to 14 staff, you’re a small business, then 12 months is where they get their unfair dismissal rights. So, within that time, they don’t have access to that. They’re out of jurisdiction for unfair dismissal.

If you’re a business with more than 15, you only have six months. So, if your probation period’s six months, and you’ve got more than 15 staff, there is no point extending it because the employees will get their unfair dismissal rights anyway.

If at three or four months they’re not working out at that point, it’s probably not going to work out. Best to let them go.


When can’t you dismiss?

There are a whole bunch of different situations and times when you cannot dismiss. You’ve got general protections as well. For example, if an employee is off on sickness, you can’t let them go during their probation period because it could come back at you; you’ve dismissed them because they’re off on sick. They took on sick. In this case, you’re most likely going to have a general protection claim that will come your way.

Also, you can’t dismiss them based on a protected attribute. So, you get a new employee onboard, two months down there, “I’m pregnant.” “Oh, sorry, you’ve failed your probation period.” You’re likely to get discrimination chiming in on that one. That’s another major no-no.

Also, if you don’t follow the terms and conditions of your employment contract that you have in place with your employee, that would be a bad faith breach of contract.

There are some areas that you need to be aware of as well. You also need to take all reasonable steps to assist the employee within that period.

You should be giving your new hires, and all of your employees, all the training, tools, and supervision they need to perform to the best of their ability within that probation period.

What I say is treat a person the way that you’d want to be treated.

Imagine if you’re a new person in the workplace. What will you need to support you to be successful? There’s no point in checking someone in, and going, “Off you go. Give them the opportunity to at least succeed because the recruitment process, as we’ve gone through, can be expensive.

Make the most of it. Get it right the first time. Then you’ve got the probation period if it isn’t working out. Now I’m not saying, and I would not encourage you to get people up to five months all the time, then sack them. Because you’ll soon get a bad reputation for it, and you’ll have a very toxic culture within your business. If you’re in the customer service industry, your customers are going to know as well.

You’re going to have no consistency. No consistency equals poor moral. What you want is to get a person on board, and have them there for the long term, an extended period.

And don’t forget the cost associated with taking people on, recruiting them, and then getting rid of them. Consider the training up costs; it’s not just the recruitment. But the probation period is there as a get out of jail card – at least you can look at it that way.


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Probation periods are very beneficial to an employer