Probation: What it means for you and your employer?
You’ve aced your interviews and been offered the job, Congratulations, you start next month! Job hunting may have been stressful but now you’re home and dry! Well, not quite…
You’re now effectively on trial. It’s time to put into practice everything you promised in the interviews. This is the dreaded probationary period where you and your new employer must live up to the expectations that have (hopefully) been set. Probationary periods usually vary from 3 months to 6 months but may be shorter or longer depending on the business and role. This can cause stress during the initial months of your employment, after all, you’re usually on a week’s notice for the entire time. We thought it might be useful to put together some info to help you better understand your probationary period and how best to navigate it.
Ahead of starting your new role, you will have signed a new contract which clearly states all the terms and benefits associated with your role. This should include your salary, working hours & overtime, holiday, sick pay, redundancy pay and notice period. This is where you turn if you need to check your rights, or if you have any disputes. It is important to realise that many of the benefits of your new contract may not be activated until after you have successfully passed your probation.
Save a copy of your contract you may need to refer to it at some point during your employment or, when you eventually decide to move on.
Every contract will include general implied terms for both the employee and employer which include, a duty of trust between both parties, a duty of care and a duty to obey any reasonable instructions given by your employer.
Your employment commences from the day you start, not the day your probationary period ends. This means that your eligibility for statutory employment rights, starts from your official start date. This includes the right not to be unfairly dismissed.
By law, employees have statutory rights which include National Minimum Wage, maternity leave, paid holidays, itemised pay statements, compensation regarding redundancy and unfair dismissal. Any rights you have in your contract are in addition to your statutory rights. You can agree to any terms in a contract with your employer, but these cannot be worse than your statutory rights.
Extending the probationary period
If your employer doesn’t feel that your performance has lived up to expectations during your probationary period, or you’ve had to take extended leave, they may decide to extend your probation. This isn’t always a bad thing as they can obviously see potential but haven’t had the opportunity to assess you properly during your initial 3 - 6 months.
If your employer is not happy with your performance or conduct, they can legally dismiss you providing they follow the correct disciplinary procedures and they give you the correct notice period. It’s important to note that your employer doesn’t have to wait until the end of your probationary period to do this.
If your contract is broken
If either you or your employer breaks the contract, it causes a breach of contract e.g. if your employer dismisses you without the correct amount of notice. If this is the case you should try raising a grievance against your employer.
It’s important to be treated fairly as an employee and know where you stand during your probationary period. It’s always worth taking advice if you feel the role has been miss-sold, or if you’re manager isn’t delivering on what was promised. Equally, it’s important for your employer to know they can trust you and that you’re capable of fulfilling the role to an acceptable level.
There are a few very basic things you can do to ensure you keep up your side of the agreement.
- Turn up on time dressed appropriately. Always check what time your employer expects you in on your first day, (often they will want a bit of extra time to prepare for your arrival.) First impressions count so do not risk being late, your employer will immediately start to worry!
- Make an effort to introduce yourself to other members of the team, often employers will ask their staff what they think of a new employee during probation.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. - It can be daunting when you start a new role in an unfamiliar environment but every one of your colleagues will have had to do the same thing so don’t worry. They should want to help you settle in so if in doubt, ask!
- Provide feedback. - Your new employer has invested a lot of time and money in you, they will want to know how you’re settling in. Whether it’s all going swimmingly, or you’re drowning, don’t be afraid to let your manager know, they would much rather have the opportunity to address the situation than lose you.