Dismissing an Employee during their Probation period

Employees can be dismissed while on probation or even after their probation period.

Employees do not have the right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal unless they have two years of continuous service (subject to the provisions in the Equality Act 2010).

What Purpose Does A Probationary Period Serve?

Many employers will have an initial probationary period for new staff members (typically around six months), and many HR professionals would argue that having a probationary period increases the likelihood of an employee succeed in their new role.

Having a probationary period does allow both the employer and the employee time to consider whether the role is suitable.

For employers, it gives them time to assess the employees’ capabilities, skills, performance and also their general attitude and ability to fit into the team, and for the employees, it gives them an opportunity to consider whether the job is what they would like to be doing in the long term.

Aims And Objectives Of A Probation Period

However, to make the probationary period worthwhile, it is important for employers first to set out the aims and objectives that they would like the employee to meet, and also to provide them with the training and support they need to achieve those standards.

It is equally important to continue to monitor the employee throughout this period to ascertain if they are progressing in the way the employer would like because if they are not, it may well be that you can provide them with additional support or guidance that will enable them to progress.

Whilst it is correct to say that you can terminate an employee’s employment fairly easily until they have two years continuous service, there are costs to a business in simply replacing staff (such as recruitment costs) when often, given the right guidance, staff can be trained to work in a way that is best for your business.

Legal Requirements Of A Probationary Period

There is no legal requirement to offer a probationary period, and as such, no specific timescale that an employer needs to give as a probationary period; however, it must be reasonable and therefore depending on the job role, 3 – 6 months is usually a reasonable timescale.

During the course of the probationary period, you should hold regular reviews with employees so you can both learn where improvements can be made, and if necessary, you can extend the probationary period at the end if you feel that the employee has the potential to meet the standards required, but needs just a little more time.

Again, no specific law states how long you must extend probationary periods (or in the fact that you are obliged to) but a reasonable timescale would be in the region of 3 months.

If at the end of the probationary period, the employee is still not meeting the requirements of your business, you can terminate the employee's employment by giving them one weeks’ notice provided that they do not fall into any of the protected categories that would enable them to bring a claim without the two years continuous service.

Dismiss An Employee On Probation - Notes To Employers

Employers do not have to have a probationary period in their contracts.

They have the right to terminate an employee’s employment without giving reasons if they do not have two years of continuous service (subject to them not falling into any protected categories).

However, there is a benefit to having a period within which an employer can monitor an employee and provide them with the tools necessary to make them a success in your business.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.

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