Business Law & Compliance


What SME employers need to know about probationary periods

3 Mins

How to successfully dismiss those on probationary periods – or extend the time slot

Despite their skill set, the new hire doesn’t gel with the team, they’re highly unproductive and don’t share the values you thought made them a great fit. Whatever the reason may be, it’s come to the point where you want to start anew on your search for an employee. The good news is, bosses don’t have to wait until the end of probationary periods to chuck unsuitable staff out the door.

That is, if you mentioned it in the employment contract. It’s one of those insurances we spoke of. Once someone has completed one months’ service they are entitled to a minimum statutory dismissal notice of one week – any other time should be specified in the contract.

It seems easy enough, as Personnel Today’s Clio Springer said: Employees on probation usually have a short length of service and are therefore unable to claim their dismissal was procedurally unfair or unreasonable, for which two years’ service is needed.” 

But it turns out it’s easier to say “things just didn’t worked out” at the end of the period instead of dismissing them prematurely. Why? “Staff do not need a minimum period of service to claim their dismissal was automatically unfair (such as for asserting a statutory right) or that it was based on unlawful discrimination,” Springer explained. “Bosses will want to be able to demonstrate the grounds for such actions were genuine – so carry out proper investigations into their behaviour.”

As for those being promoted internally, well, they could have passed that two year employment mark Springer alluded to – and they have the right to make that direct claim new hires can’t.

But what happens when you just can’t decide within that time period whether they’re the right employee for you? You can extend probationary periods, of course. But you don’t have the ability to click your fingers and extend it just like that. It should have been detailed in a clause. Once the period has ended and there’s no hint of extension in your new hire’s contract, then guess what, they’re officially part of your team and you cannot then compel them to agree to an extension. 

Image: Shutterstock

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