What is a probation period?
A probation period is when both parties evaluate the employee and employer arrangement prior to committing to a fixed contract. It is also called the trial period or probationary period.
The length of the probationary period is not set out in legislation, but it typically ranges between 3 to 6 months. However, this can be shorter or longer in some cases. The length of time depends on the job and the industry.
A probation period clause is most common in employment contracts but can also be found in rental agreements, sales contracts, leases, and other agreements.
Notice period during probation
During a probationary period, some contracts state that employment can be terminated on much shorter notice (in line with the minimum statutory notice set out in section 86 of the Employment Right Act 1996) than the notice to which the employee will be entitled once they successfully pass their probation.
Statutory notice periods are:
- If employed between one month and two years, at least one week’s notice
- If employed between 2 and 12 years, one week’s notice for each year
- If employed for 12 years or more, 12 weeks’ notice
Importance in a probation period
A probationary period allows both parties to evaluate whether they want to continue the agreement. For example, if you hire an employee with a probationary period of three months, both parties will have this period to assess how the arrangement is working out and reflect at the end of the term.
After three months, if both employer and employee are satisfied with the arrangement, the employee will complete their probationary period and receive a permanent contract allowing them access to full benefits provided by the company.
Steps to a successful probation period
It is in the company's best interests to have an adequate probationary period. An unsuccessful probation period increases staff turnover and wastes company resources such as the time and money spent on training new hires.
Providing proper training is vital in the first few weeks of hiring new staff. It is also important the hew employees have the adequate resources to support them in the early stages of their engagement. A well thought out training plan will foster knowledge and confidence in new hires allowing them to complete their duties accurately and efficiently.
Setting targets is vital so that both parties know what is expected and the employee has a goal to work towards. Set realistic goals to ensure fairness when assessing the employee's capabilities. Through targets, you can evaluate performance and determine where the employee may be lacking. This allows you to optimise the training plan and improve efficiency, which is in the company's best interest.
Draft your clause
If the clause in the agreement doesn't state the employer will confirm the passing of probation, it would be implied it ends at the end of the probationary period, and the employee is successful. This is why it is important to expressly state in the probation period clause that:
1) the employee will be notified on successful completion of passing the probation and
2) the employer can terminate/extend the probation period
3) whether the employer will confirm in writing or not
How to write thank you letter for a successful probation period
While it is not a legal requirement to draft a formal letter, it is important to express gratitude to your new employee and notify them properly of their achievement. Asking for feedback is also a good idea as it makes the employee feel valued.
Please see a letter template below as an example:
Congratulations on completing your probationary period with our company. You have proven to be a valued member, and we are pleased to offer you employment as a permanent employee, effective immediately. Your employment will be subject to your employment agreement and the employee handbook.
You are now eligible for full-time benefits and compensation as per the employment agreement.
If you have any feedback or if there is anything that we can do for you during this exciting time, please let us know.
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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.