Probationary reviews

Probationary reviews are a useful way of ensuring that your new employer is a good fit for the role. They should be put in place for the first 3 to 6 months of the employees time with the organisation. They should NOT be put in place when an employee moves from one role to another within an organisation. Why is this? Because the point of a probationary period is to assess the employee’s suitability. Once they already work for you, you should have been able to complete that assessment. If they move to another role which they are not suitable for, then performance management is the correct course of action.

How does a probationary period work?

Done well, a probationary review period allows the employee:

  • to be set clear objectives.
  • to have these objectives regularly reviewed throughout the probationary period and any
  • to have agreed support or guidance  documented against each objective. 

This last point is especially important if you have appointed someone to the role who does not have all the required skills and experience that you need. Where they have gaps, they should be plugged with relevant coaching, on the job training or formal skills training. 

Reviewing performance

Performance should be reviewed regularly during the probationary period. If the employee isn’t meeting expectations (or if for that matter they do something really good), you should bring it to their attention as soon as possible. This will allow them to correct underperformance or will keep them motivated to achieve more. More formal meetings should take place at least every month during probation.

Probationary review

The end of the probationary period review

At the end of the probationary period, a formal review should take place. Before this meeting takes place, you should gather all relevant information. This can include feedback from colleagues where appropriate. You should formally invite the employee to the meeting using the below template ensuring that they have the right to representation if dismissal is a potential outcome. You may want to bring a notetaker with you where the meeting is likely to result in an extension to probation or dismissal. 

At the meeting, check whether the employee is happy to proceed without representation (if they haven’t got one with them and you invited them to bring one). Then allow the employee to give their opinion of their performance during the probationary period. You should review any evidence that they have brought. After that, give your evaluation and provide your evidence.

At the end of the meeting, take an adjournment to consider what you’ve heard. You can then deliver one of the following outcomes:

  • An extension of the probationary period. This should be used where the employee has made some progress but not enough to successfully pass the probationary period. In this case, only one extension should be allowed. You should restate what the required level of performance is and again check if any additional support is required.
  • The probationary period is not successful. In this case, the employee is dismissed with notice. The employee has the right to appeal but as they have less than 2 years service, they will not have the right to claim unfair dismissal.

Where the employee has successfully passed probation

Once you have reviewed the performance against each objective, you can skip the adjournment step and confirm employment. Confirm the outcome in writing using the below letter and agree to meet at a later date to set performance objectives. That concludes the process.

Probationary review letters

Probationary review meeting invite – click here

Probationary review form – click here

Successful outcome letter – click here

Extension letter – click here

Dismissal letter – click here