Should I have probationary periods for my new staff and, if so, how long should they last?

Traditionally, probationary periods were for a three month period, but more and more we are seeing companies extend them to a six month period.


In the eyes of the law, the probationary period must be seen as reasonable.


While it is lawful to extend the period to six months, if you do need to dismiss the employee during this extended period, you must be able to justify that you required the extra time to be able to assess the suitability of the employee.


The probationary period gives both the employer and employee time to see if it is a good fit. It is critical that you specify the period of time for the probation and put it in writing, either in an employment agreement or letter of offer.


This must be sent to the new employee prior to them starting employment. Handing over the paperwork on their first day may mean you are not covered for any potential unfair dismissal claims.


Unfair dismissal of course only applies if you employ more than 15 employees.


During the probationary period document any concerns you or other employees are having with the new employee.


Assessment must be in line with their job description and will usually be based on their performance or lack of their technical capabilities, skills or workplace behaviours.


New employees can become quite anxious about having a review. It is a good idea to notify them well in advance of the date, this also allows the employee time to prepare any questions or concerns that they may want to discuss.


As well as addressing any issues you may raise, the process should allow for feedback from the employee.


Ensure you have a copy of their position description for reference.


Finally, if you have employed a star performer who is doing everything right, make sure you let them know!


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