The Scoop on Probationary Periods – A time to engage your new Employee for future success

Fresh HR Insights can help make probationary periods work for the employee and employer

Probationary periods at the start of new employment have been common practice in Australia for a long time. However, they can be instigated and served in an unsatisfactory manner which can defeat their purpose.  They are a means by which an employer can see demonstrated the suitability and fitness of new employees to the job.  It is a period of time (i.e. 3 months), when an employee is first employed, and allows either the employer or the employee to terminate the employment for any reason.  The purpose of a probationary period is for both parties to decide whether the employee is suited to the position and/or employer’s business. ‘Trying out the Employment’

 A probation period also entitle’s an employer to dismiss an employee without the risk of an unfair dismissal claim if he/she is found to be unsuitable. The Fair Work Act (Act) has replaced the reference to “probation”: with the need for an employee to serve a “minimum employment period” before the employee can lodge an unfair dismissal claim.

Many of us, in the employer role, have interviewed fantastic candidates for the jobs we are advertising, who have sailed through into first place on a mix of charm and know-how, only to find that much of the personality was thin and that real knowledge on the job is scant and above all, with a daily demonstration of a “lazy and late every day” attitude, that the motivation shown in interview simply wasn’t true!

On the other hand – employees can be put off leaving one place of work to go into another knowing there is no secure contract of employment until weeks, maybe months down the line. And however excellent a new employee, being scrutinised can be stressful.

Almost 1 in 5 new employees fails to get past their probation period according to new research. Some of the main reasons why new starters fail in their probation periods are;

  • Poor performance is the most common reason for failing to pass probation
  • Lateness was a close second’
  • Gross misconduct was next
  • Sickness came in in fourth place

The research also revealed that 60pc of companies have a probationary period failure rate of 10pc, and that almost 80pc of companies are willing to give staff another chance by extending probation periods.

Turning the negative to positive

Fresh HR Insights believes that probationary periods can work for everybody as long as expectations on both sides are managed professionally.

Know what it is  A probationary employment period is a short “starter” contract which is precursor to an intended longer term or permanent employment contract, for an employer to consider whether a new member of staff can reach and maintain the standards required for the job.   It can also be a time for the newly recruited individual to consider whether the workplace is where they want to stay. 

Manage well and motivate your new employee for the future. As an employer, you should ensure the newly recruited staff member takes part in an induction, meets all staff, is aware of company policies and procedures, understands the culture of the company and, crucially, is fully aware of all the requirements of the new role.    In the event that training was offered during the interview process, this must be honoured as quickly as possible so that the new member of staff is equipped for the role in question. It is essential that your new employee is given the best possible start in your company and the optimal conditions for exercising the role intended for him or her.

Always make your intentions clear and be honest

Fresh HR Insights stresses the importance of openness.

Arrange regular meetings with the new employee so that problems can be resolved in a timely way and ensure that a review takes place half way through the probationary term so both sides can air what they like and don’t like.  Remember to write down all decisions keep the employee fully informed at all times. 

If you encourage your employee to be frank and honest, also, about any difficulties, and to put them in writing to you, their confidence will grow in you and in the company and additionally, there will be no surprises by the end of the period.  If all goes to plan, after 6 months, you should be formalising a full-time contract with your employee and welcoming them officially to the team. We recommend the use of “Successful Completion of Probation” letter’s

If you want more information you can contact Fresh HR Insights on OR you can download “The Scoop on Probationary Periods” – this includes all you need to know PLUS your Probation letters and New Employee induction checklist.