Dismissal During Probationary Period

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis

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05 Jun 2019

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Most permanent employment contracts must first go through the successful completion of a probationary period.

The aim of the process is to provide both parties with enough time to assess whether they’re well suited for each other.

This post explores the procedures for dismissing staff during the probationary period if they aren’t working out. This includes a template letter to provide them with notice of dismissal.

We also look at the employee’s right to appeal and the laws you’ll need to consider regarding this.

 

The importance of probation

The process allows you to determine if a new starter is right for the role and if their values match those of your organisation.

It also allows the employee to decide whether they’re happy working for your business.

While the length of this period may vary depending on the job, it’s not uncommon for it to last anywhere from one to six months.

In most cases, there’ll be a clause in the employment contract stating the organisation could extend the probation period if needed.

 

Dismissal during probation

There’re many reasons why you could consider dismissing an employee before completion of their period of probation.

The most common reason for dismissal during the probationary period is if the staff member doesn’t have the skills required for the role. It could also be down to:

According to Acas’s guide to dismissal during the probation period, employees are still entitled to a statutory notice period of one week. This applies if they’ve been in employment for one month or more (up to two years).

There's no need to provide notice to those employed for less than a month. It’s, however, good business practice to give reasonable notice periods in this situation.

Consider the following procedure for dismissing an employee during their probation period:

  • In writing, invite the employee to a probationary review meeting where you’ll discuss issues relating to their performance.
  • In the letter, inform them you’re considering terminating their contract.
  • Advise them of their right to have someone there with them (a colleague or member of a trade union).
  • Offer evidence that supports your concerns and give them the opportunity to respond.
  • Decide on appropriate action. Before terminating the contract of employment, consider extending the probation period.
  • Communicate the outcome to the staff member in writing.

To handle probationary reviews consistently, consider investing in training for managers on how to manage probation for employees.

By completing successful reviews and highlighting areas of improvements, you’re also preventing situations where you have to dismiss staff during their probation.

 

Dismissal during probationary period due to sickness

You’re within your right to do this even during the new starter’s first few months.

You may have to consider dismissing an employee if they have to take time off work to recover from an illness or injury.

However, you should conduct an assessment to identify if the illness or disability is work-related.

Of course, the dismissal should always be as a last resort after considering where you could make reasonable adjustments that could help them return to work if they’re off with a disability.

Reasonable adjustments include:

  • Providing parking spaces closer to the office building.
  • Reorganising roles to enable a disabled employee to carry out certain duties.
  • Allowing regular breaks.
  • Providing specialist equipment.
  • Allow options for flexible working.

Dismissal during probationary period letter template

Below is an example you can use for your business. Remember you’ll need to adapt it for your specific requirements.

*Template starts*

[DATE]

Dear [EMPLOYEE NAME]

RE: Probation Period

I am writing to confirm the discussion which we had on [date].

As I’m sure you’re aware, your employment with us was based upon successful completion of a probation period. Following reviews of your work and feedback from your manager, unfortunately, [specify the reason for dismissal].

Your probation is due to end on [date] and we’ve decided to terminate your employment at this point. This letter serves as your [duration] notice in accordance with your employment contract. Also in accordance with the same contract, you have the legal right to appeal this decision.

If you wish to, you may do so by setting out the grounds for your appeal (in writing) and sending it to [employee name] at [email address] on or before [date].

Please ensure that you return all company property before leaving the organisation. This includes books, laptop, phone and security pass.

I wish you success in your future endeavours.

Yours sincerely,

[Name and position]

*End Template*

 

Disclaimer: The template is an example only and we don’t take any responsibility for inaccurate or inappropriate use of the document in your business.

 

Dismissal during probationary period right of appeal

While an employee can’t claim unfair dismissal during the first year of their employment, they can claim for wrongful dismissal. This could occur if you end their contract without going through a fair dismissal process as per their contract of employment.

However, you can allow for an appeal process to avoid claims of wrongful dismissal. As a sign of good faith, you can give up to five working days to lodge an appeal.

 

Expert Support

If you’re facing challenges with an employee who is in their probationary period, or any other sickness, disciplinary, grievance or employment law issue, please contact us on 0808 145 3380.

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in Employment law, HR and Commercial Legal advice for large organisations across the United Kingdom.

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