3. Make a decision: hire or fire?
You must make a decision, prior to the end of the probationary or qualifying period, whether the employee’s employment will continue. You must also communicate this to the employee. I suggest a probation review meeting be scheduled for one month before the end of the probation period when the employee starts so that this is not forgotten in the course of running a business. You should also have a reminder in your own outlook one week before that meeting so you have plenty of time to consider the situation.
Many people will put off a decision in the hope that issues which they have identified will improve over time as it is uncomfortable, frustrating, time consuming and costly to terminate an employee and start over from scratch. It is rarely the case that issues during the probationary period are remedied after its completion. Instead, they are likely to continue and in many cases, deteriorate.
If you have attitudinal concerns about the probationary employee, these are unlikely to change. In my experience, performance can always improve but attitude and personality rarely do and serious consideration needs to be given as to whether their employment should be terminated.
4. Don’t make promises
Terminating an employee during the probationary period is not without any legal risk. Although unfair dismissal provisions do not apply in the first 6 months (or 12 months if a small business employer), employees are still protected from adverse action, discrimination and breach of contract from their first day of employment.
You must not, even during the probationary and qualifying period, make promises or comments that give the employee a view they are likely to continue on in the position. By all means you should encourage the employee, but don’t make promises. If you do, and then legitimately have to terminate the employee, it will be easier for them to argue that the termination was for an unlawful reason such as because they made a workplace complaint.
5. Provide meaningful work
If you don’t give meaningful and challenging work to an employee during the probationary period, you will not be able to properly assess their value to the business. For most businesses, you only have six months to assess an employee without that employee having an access to unfair dismissal. You should try to ensure they are given work and challenges during this period which can be used to properly assess whether they are right for the role on a long-term basis.
The probationary period and the first 6 months of employment are a vital period of time and provide the opportunity to closely monitor the employee for their performance and fit within the organisation in a relatively risk free way. If issues relating to a new employee are identified during the first 6 months of employment, serious consideration should be given to terminating their employment, otherwise the business could be required to defend an unfair dismissal application which could have been avoided.