Article, Employment Legislation, Probation Period

Managing the Probation Period

The statement of terms and conditions of employment issued to the employee upon commencement of employment will specify the employee’s probation period and generally, it will be for a period of six months.  The probation period is a period within which the employer can assess the employee’s suitability for their role within the organisation.  It should be viewed as an extension of the recruitment and on boarding procedure, ensuring that the employee is set up for success, by having regular meetings with their direct line manager to discuss their performance and any potential areas for development.  All probation review meetings should be documented and any improvements to the work standard required should be clearly communicated to the employee both verbally and in writing.

An update passed in August 2022, saw changes being made to the length of the probation period where it cannot exceed six month unless in exceptional circumstances.  An example of where a probation period may be extended is if the employee goes on sick leave for a period of time during their probation period or if an employee goes on maternity leave.

Many employers may view the probation period as a “safe” time to dismiss an employee without following fair procedures but it is always advisable to make such a decision with caution.  Various case law demonstrates that cases of unfair dismissals, during the probation period, can be taken under the Industrial Relations Acts.  In case of unsatisfactory performance, employers must be able to show that they have made every effort to set the employee up for success and in cases where an employees performance is not or has not met the standard accepted, the employer must have documented discussions with the employee to make them aware of this.   Furthermore, they must give the employee adequate time to make the necessary improvements.  In managing the probation period well, the employer should follow these steps:

  • Invite the employee to a probation review meeting in writing
  • Provide clear and constructive feedback always starting with the positive followed by the areas for development
  • Agree goals and actions required to be reviewed at the next probation review meeting whilst ensuring that the employee is provided with the necessary training and support, as required
  • As previously mentioned, all meetings should be documented and it must also be stated that the employee may be at risk of failing their probation period if their performance does not meet the standard accepted
  • Where the acceptable standard has not been reached, the employer can invite the employee to a final probation review meeting, notifying them that the outcome of the meeting may be termination of employment.  After this meeting, the employer must issue a letter stating the specific areas of performance that were not at the acceptable standard, the termination date, and any annual leave accrued and when monies owed will be paid.

Additionally, where an employee’s conduct is or has been brought into question, it is most important that the employer is able to demonstrate that they have followed fair procedures, in conjunction with internal grievance and disciplinary procedures, affording the employee all grounds of natural justice: the right to a fair and unbiased hearing, the right to be informed, the right to representation, the right to respond and the right to appeal.



Engaged HR Blog

Welcome to the Engaged HR blog. Here you will find a range of blogs where I share advice and tips for employers and employees alike on a broad range of HR related topics. Hope you enjoy and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!

Ailbhe Carty Nairn


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