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Induction and probation

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According to a July 2017 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, one in five employees has chosen to leave an employer during their probationary period.

Good induction and probation programmes can reduce such instances and can lead to more settled employees, better work performance and improved employee relations.

A flexible approach

Induction and probation processes should be flexible to meet individual needs. New employees should gain the impression that yours is an organisation which celebrates diversity and differences in people, not an organisation that finds such differences a problem.

Remember that some employees may take longer to settle, for example if they:

  • are in a minority in the workplace, eg older/younger than other employees
  • have a disability (in which case you may need to make reasonable adjustments, see Equality and diversity)
  • have been out of the workplace for some time
  • are new to the world of work.

Induction

When they have completed their induction, each employee should understand:

  • what your organisation does and the jobs people do
  • their role – how they will undertake the duties outlined in their job description
    • how what they do fits in with the wider aims of the organisation.

An effective induction starts before the employee’s first day and continues during the first week or two at work. Our induction checklist (Word, 28KB) may help as an aide-memoire.

Acas has an alternative induction checklist.

Probation

The terms of probation should be set out in the written statement of terms and conditions (see The written statement and contract of employment). Your organisation may also have a specific probation procedure.

Probation normally lasts for six months.

You should have a system in place to ensure that the new employee’s performance is reviewed regularly during this period. It is recommended that you have probation review meetings as follows:

  • at the end of the first week
  • at the end of the first month
  • when the employee has been in post for three months
  • when the employee has been in post for just under six months.

At each meeting, you should review progress against the job description and any specific targets that have been set.

At the six-month stage, you should confirm the employee in post, extend their probationary period or (exceptionally) terminate their employment.

When probation is not going well

If you have concerns about the employee’s performance, be specific about your concerns and about what good performance looks like. You will need to inform the employee that if improvement does not occur, the probationary period may be extended or their contract may be terminated.

Ask the employee if there are specific barriers preventing them from achieving their best. If there are, work with the employee to remove these barriers. Provide additional training or coaching if needed.

Give the employee a clear note confirming your discussions. Arrange to meet regularly with the employee to help them improve their performance and to review progress. How regularly you meet will depend on the specific circumstance, but a brief meeting each week to keep the employee on track is often better than a longer meeting each month.

Extending probation

If you feel that the employee’s performance remains unsatisfactory, but could reach a satisfactory standard given a little more time, you could extend the probationary period, say by a further three months. You should make it clear to the employee that if improvement does not occur during the period of extension, termination of the employee’s contract may occur. Details of the decision to extend probation should be recorded in writing and a copy given to the employee.

Terminating employment during or at the end of the probationary period

If you are seeking to terminate an employee’s contract during or at the end of the probationary period, make sure you follow your probationary procedure if you have one. If you do not, you are advised to take the following approach:

  • Write to the employee to invite them to a meeting. In your letter, explain your concerns and that one outcome of the meeting could be the termination of employment. The letter should also inform the employee of their right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative at the meeting. It is recommended that the employee receives a minimum of two days’ notice prior to the meeting.
  • Hold the meeting. Both you and the employee should have the opportunity to give your points of view. You should consider fully what the employee says about their work performance.
  • Keep an open mind and don’t take a final decision on whether to terminate the employee’s contract until you have heard everything that has been said and until you have had a chance to consider it. After the meeting, adjourn and review what has been said, including any new information.
  • Inform the employee about your decision, which could be to terminate employment, extend the probationary period or to confirm the individual in post. If the decision is to terminate employment, set this out in writing, giving the notice required in the contract of employment/statement of written terms and conditions (unless the meeting results in summary dismissal for gross misconduct, in which case no notice period applies).
  • If the decision is not dismiss, give the employee the right of appeal, reminding him or her of the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative at the appeal meeting. A more senior manager or trustee should hold this meeting. After the meeting, the appeal decision should be communicated to the employee.

Further resources

Page last edited Jun 28, 2018

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