You don’t have to have probation periods, however, they are recommended.
If an employee’s in their probation period and chooses to leave before it’s over, if you don’t have a set term in your contracts of employment, they must give the statutory minimum notice period – which is one week.
However, you can set your own notice period specifically for probation periods in your contracts of employment.
So, for example, if an employee’s notice period would ordinarily be four weeks outside of probationary periods, you can set it at two weeks during their probation period, providing it’s in writing in their contract of employment.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, the key is that whatever the term, it should be in writing to show what‘s been agreed.
If the shoe’s on the other foot and it becomes apparent in an employee’s probation period that things aren’t working out, it should be easier for you to let them go.
Before doing this though, it’s good practice to try to make it work by clearly setting out what’s expected of them, and holding regular reviews to monitor performance and further reiterate your expectations – particularly as you’ll have no doubt spent time and money during the recruitment and training process already.
If, despite your efforts, things still aren’t working out, you’d be within your rights to dismiss the employee. Remember though, even in their probation period, employees still have certain rights – like the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or an accredited trade union official.
Furthermore, although employees who’re still in their probation period can’t claim ‘straight forward’ unfair dismissal, they can still claim discrimination. Grounds for discrimination include: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage or civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.
They can also claim for ‘automatically’ unfair dismissals – for example, that they were dismissed for whistleblowing.
Therefore, you should follow a fair and consistent process at all times and collect relevant evidence, especially as this will go a long way to evidencing the reasons why the employee was dismissed.
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