A guide to probation period employment law in the UK

There’s no legal requirement in Employment Law to have a probation period for employees who are joining your business. However, it’s a really useful tool to help you assess the performance of those employees and make sure they’re the right fit for your business and the role they’re going to perform. If a probation period is right for your business, you should include it in any contract of employment.

What are the probation period rules in the UK?

A probation period is a temporary period to allow you to decide whether someone is a good fit for the job. Probation periods aren’t compulsory, but there are certain rules you should follow to comply with probation employment rights  – whether or not you choose to have one.

How long can you extend a probationary period for? 

If you do decide to use a probation period, it must be included in an employee’s contract of employment. This should include details like any conditions attached and its duration.

If you’d like the option to extend the probation period if needs be, you should include that in the contract. You should also provide details of what would happen both if the probation period is passed or if unsatisfactory progress has been made.

If you decide not to use a probation period, this must also be stated in the contract.

Probation period length

There’s no set probation period length. Probation periods can vary in length, but most tend to be around six months long.

For more junior roles in the business, it may be easier to decide if an employee is a good fit more quickly, so a three-month probation period could be enough. If you’re considering using a longer probation period, make sure you avoid using a period of two years or more, as this may risk the employee building up enough qualifying service to bring a potential claim for unfair dismissal.

Once an employee has been continuously employed for one month or more, the statutory minimum notice period is one week – which applies to both the employee and you as the employer. So whether they resign or you let them go, you both must stick to the one week notice period.

It’s also important to make a note of when the probation period will come to an end for an employee. If there isn’t a clause in their contract that says that you’ll provide confirmation if their probation has been passed, and they work beyond the probation period specified in the contract of employment, then there could be an argument that they’ve passed their probation by default.

Probation period salary and holiday pay

Even if your employee is in their probation period, they’re still entitled to their employee rights during probation. This means that they’ll still be entitled to holiday time and holiday pay during probation, and should also be paid their normal salary.

Dismissal during employee probationary period

Dismissal of any kind is a sensitive topic, and it’s one that should be handled carefully to avoid any wrongful dismissal claims. If it does come to it and you need to dismiss an employee, then it can be done on the basis of poor performance, gross misconduct, or breach of contract.

To learn more about how to comply with employee rights during probation and during dismissal, visit our blog on dismissal during the probationary period.

Unfair dismissal 

While two years of service is needed to bring a claim for unfair dismissal, there’s no qualifying service for many other claims – including discrimination. That’s why it’s important that individuals in their probation period are treated fairly and comply with the UK probation period Employment Law and the Equality Act 2010 at all times.

We recommend holding a probation review with your employee before their probation period ends and then confirming in writing either if they have passed their probation, if this is to be extended, or if their employment will be terminated.

Comply with employee rights during probation with Citation

We’re the experts when it comes to probation period Employment Law. Our team can create compliant contracts of employment that meet your exact needs. Get in touch to learn more about our Employment Law services.

We can also help you with a wide range of other HR & Employment Law and Health & Safety compliance services. If you need dismissal procedure advice, then we’re here to help! Our expert team of friendly advisors can be available 24/7 to help you with any compliance issues, as and when they happen. Whether you need us on-site, on the phone, or simply online, we’re here for your business. Simply call 0345 844 1111 to find out more.

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