Making the Employment ‘Probation Period’ work for your Business

By Helen Burrowes

Senior HR Consultant

The probation period is applied when a new employee starts employment with a company.  The purpose of the trial is for the employer to assess the employee’s capability and conduct during the first period of employment. 

The employment contract will outline the duration of the period probation, typically this ranges between one month to six months.  The probation duration will be determined by the seniority of the employee, or the tasks that will be assessment in these early months of employment.

How to assess performance during probation?

The assessment is carried out to determine the suitability of the employee in the role.  Criteria for the assessment includes: skills, capabilities, performance, conduct and suitability in the role.  It is within this assessment period that the line manager can communicate expectations and timelines specific to the role and the company.

Whilst there is no legal requirement for a probationary period for new employees, this process provides a vital assessment tool to identify progress and suitability in the role, it is therefore valuable to monitor performance.

At the end of the probationary period

It is best practice to hold a probationary meeting to conclude this assessment period.  The outcome of the probationary meeting includes one of the following options:

  1. Confirming the employee in the role, ‘Passed Probation’,
  2. Extending the probation period to allow for a further assessment e.g. the employee has not shown a skill, or behaviour that is expected in the role, or additional training is required,
  3. Dismissal, due to not meeting the expectations in the role.

Where dismissal takes place it is recommended that the employer seeks HR advice from their HR team or HR Consultant.  Whilst dismissals in probation can be a lower risk, there are factors that need to be considered e.g. discrimination, whistleblowing.

How businesses can improve their probation process?

  1. Review the employment contracts probation clause
    • Is the term for the correct time? E.g. one months, three months, six months
    • Is probation passed automatically, or subject to a probation review?
  2. Implement a probation review process
    • Draft an assessment form
    • Schedule a reminder of the probation completion date
  3. Review the recruitment process
    • Consider what will be assessed during the probation assessment period in preparation for the new employee starting.

Carrying out a fair and effective probation encourages employee satisfaction levels, resulting in an employee that understands where they fit within the business and how they can grow into the role.  

If you are looking to either review your current probation processes, or would like to discuss how to implement this process, then please contact our Nockolds HR Consultants on 0345 646 0406 or email