What Is a Probationary Period in an Employment Setting?

By hrlineup | 30.11.2020

Even if an employee impresses you during the interviews, there is no guarantee that they will perform as per your standards. The mettle and skills of a candidate are only exposed on the job.

While you may not completely prevent misrepresentation during interviews, you can enforce probation periods to protect you from lazy, unskilled and dishonest employees.

But what, what is a probationary period and how can you use it correctly? Are they legal?

Read on to find the answers to these and more.

What is the probationary period?

Quite simply, it’s a time frame stipulated by the company within which the HR tests if the new employee is a perfect fit for the company or not. This time allows both employees and employers to test the waters before committing to a lasting working relationship.

During this period, an employee can be dismissed with little notice if the company deems them unsuitable for the job. Typically, probation periods last between three and six months. However, they can be shorter or extended depending on the employment contract.

Below are other situations when probationary periods are invoked.

Situations when probationary periods are used

An employer can take an employee through probation for a couple of reasons including;

  • Newly hired – this period is used to assess their skills, performance and teamwork. Outstanding performance leads to an offer for a permanent position in the company.
  • Promotion of employees – to determine if the employee can continue performing well with more responsibility and demands.
  • The poor performance of an existing employee – to determine the reason for their poor performance and how they can correct the errors.
  • Termination – probation period is used to determine if the termination is the best choice. The probation can serve as the last warning for an employee. If they improve during this period they are reinstated. But if not, they are terminated.

How to approach probationary periods

Though probationary periods are common, it doesn’t mean that employers should abuse it. If anything, the period should be clearly stipulated within the employment contract. It terms should include:

  • How long the probationary period lasts
  • The company should stipulate the notice period. For new employees, the minimum notice period is a week
  • Methods of assessing whether the new employee has failed or passed their probation. This could be a performance review meeting or anything along those lines

In addition to this, employers should ensure new employees are aware of the probationary period and understand what it means for them.

Probation period law

Unfortunately, there isn’t a labor law probationary period. But if you include the clause in the employment contract, it is binding.

Aside from this, ensure your reasons for termination of employment during the probationary period are not discriminatory. This is important because you’ll have to provide evidence to support your claims.

Employee probation period rights

Employee rights during probation aren’t similar to those of employees less than two years old in the company. This means that an employee on probation has the right to; earn above the national minimum wage, take time off according to the state laws, statutory notice, sick pay, and family-related leaves.

Moreover, they are protected against automatic and unfair dismissal and discrimination. Aside from this, as an employer, you can decide to reserve the entitlement of some non-statutory benefits including enhanced sick pay until they pass the probation period successfully.


If you still have questions on probationary periods, you should consult an employment law attorney. The attorney can help you set up the probation period clause and guide you through any legal claim that arises from the period.