As a young business, the calibre of employee that is required is inherently different than that of a large business; you aren’t looking for people that are process driven and blindly follow instructions. You should be looking for an individual that can challenge the status quo, drive innovation and are able to reflect. Granted, you may come across some wildcards when sifting through the visionary’s and as the saying goes, time is money – which is why you may want to consider adopting a probation period policy. Probationary periods are widely used in businesses worldwide in order to assess employee performance during the early stages of employment.
If this sounds like a policy that you would consider implementing, read on to get a comprehensive view of what they entail.
Manage Performance Early
There is no governing framework when it comes to the probation period, and it is widely recognised that they do not conform to a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It is down to employers to decide the length of time that a probationary period will last for, as long as it would be deemed ‘reasonable’. They can last as little as a week, but commonly last between 3 and 6 months.
These periods can help to identify the suitability of a new member of the team; a culture fit between new employees and the business, as well as highlighting any areas where improvement is needed. During these periods there is a heavy focus on monitoring and feedback to ensure that all expectations are being met.
It is best practice to provide feedback consistently throughout the probation period to give new starters the opportunity to learn and flourish. However if you are not convinced on the performance so far, the period can be extended for a further 3-6 months. In order for this to be fair for the employee, the right to extend must be included within the employee contract; they MUST be made aware before the expiry of the initial period. You as the employer are required to ensure the employee is made aware of the reasons why it is being extended and the actions that must be taken to pass the probation period.
Hospitality recruitment start up, Inploi offered their take, “We do use trial or ‘probationary’ periods (usually 2 weeks) and think that they are in the best interests of both parties. We have a distinct culture, so for a candidate it is good to get a look-in on that. And as a company we have exacting requirements on who we add to the team. They need to be a great fit, or it won’t work for either of us. So it is in the best interest of both parties. Any appointment is a big decision after all, especially for a startup, since every team member’s contribution is invaluable to the success of the business. Probation periods also ensure that we use our funds to the best of our ability. However, once a candidate has proven to be a good fit, a probation period may be cut short, and an appointment will be made. We therefore have a flexible view regarding it.”
Know the Contractual Rights
“Even though it is not a legal requirement, probationary periods are commonly used among employers to assess performance. However, if you should choose to adopt a probation period then be aware that you ARE legally required to inform your employees.” Explains Taylor Rose TTKW, “It’s vital that you are very clear on both statutory and contractual rights, because not knowing the difference has the potential to land you in hot water”.
In the majority of circumstances, probationary periods are beneficial to the employer and they hold no meaning in a legal respect. Irrespective of probation period policies, any qualifying period required for the employee to receive statutory rights begins from the date employment started, and are not affected by the probation period.
Examples of statutory rights include; written statement of terms of employment within 2 months of commencement date, holiday pay, maximum 48 hour working week and flexible working hours.
Although the employer can make the decision surrounding the conditions placed on the contractual entitlements when it comes to the minimum period of service required be the employee becomes entitled, The Equality Act 2010 dictates that it should not be longer than 5 years.
Use it for Weeding Purposes
In some cases, it will become apparent that an employee is not suited to the job and in situations such as these terminating employment before the end of the probation period is an option.
As long as they have been given a reasonable opportunity to meet the required standards, the employee can be dismissed during the probationary period. Despite being in a probationary period, new employees are still entitled to receive notice of dismissal of one week and payment in lieu of notice.
Stick to Best Practice When It Comes to Dismissal
Employers should be aware that just because an employee has the status of being within a probationary period, they do not have the right to terminate the contract unfairly.
Although unlikely, there are circumstances where they can sue for unfair dismissal, just as if they had had 2 years’ service with you. Statutory rights, personal injury, discrimination and breach of contract all fall into this category. In some cases, unfair dismissals rights that are usually reserved for those who have had more than 2 years’ service can be applied to those dismissed within the probationary phase.
You still need to exercise fair procedures to someone being dismissed whilst in their probation period, so ensure you can answer ‘yes’ to the following questions:
- Has your business have a clearly defined probation policy?
- Does the policy clearly state that they must pass the probation period before being considered for permanent employment?
- Does the policy clearly state that the employee can be dismissed during the probation period if they are unsuccessful?
- Is the probation period clause included in employment contracts? This is good practice and you should be sure to include that employees in the probation period are not subject to the businesses disciplinary policy, but instead they are subject to probation policy.
- Has the employment been given an employment contact and have they signed it?
Using probation periods effectively can streamline the settling in period when it comes to new recruits; as long as you are absolutely clear what it is that you both require and expect. Managing performance concerns in the early days can help to shape loyal, high performing employees that also contribute to the team culture.