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Probation Periods: What You Should Know

What is it?

A probation period is a defined length of time during which the employer and the employee can assess whether the new professional relationship is working out. Think of it as a trial.

How long should it be?

There is no 'one size fits all', but it's important to understand the difference between a probation period, and a qualifying period.

A qualifying period is the length of time after which an employee qualifies to make an unfair dismissal claim.

The qualifying period is 6 months (or 12 months for a small business).

Therefore, most employers decide to stick with a probation period of 6 months or less.

What difference does it make?

When an employee is under probation, generally this means that the notice period (length of time either employee or employer needs to give when resigning/terminating employment) is shorter (usually 1 week).

As always, check the employee's contract to ensure you have the right information.

What if the probation ended?

Once the probation has ended, the employee becomes permanent.

Does this mean I can dismiss them with no risk?

NO. The employee may not be eligible for unfair dismissal, but there are other risks to your business.

It is still unlawful to terminate their employment under 'non-performance' related grounds, for example:

  • Discrimination: You cannot dismiss an employee based on discriminatory factors such as race, gender, age, or disability.

  • Retaliation: Terminating employment in retaliation for whistleblowing or raising workplace concerns.

  • Breach of Contract: If the termination violates terms outlined in the employment contract.

  • Unlawful Reasons: Firing an employee for reasons such as joining a trade union or taking leave.

Action steps

Hiring a new employee takes a toll on a business (think time to rehire, loss of productivity, training someone all over again, etc).

Put all chances on your side, and take these actions whenever you have a new starter:

  • Step 1: Set Clear Expectations Clearly define job roles, expectations, and evaluation criteria upfront.

  • Step 2: Regular Feedback Keep communication open with regular check-ins for feedback on progress and areas for improvement.

  • Step 3: Document Performance Maintain detailed records of achievements, feedback, and improvement areas for future reference.

  • Step 4: Communicate Outcome Conclude the probation period with clear communication on the outcome. If permanent, discuss expectations. If concerns arise, openly address them and offer support or a performance plan.

For help with your employee matter, get in touch with Sandra or 0408 408 225

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The content provided on this website serves as a general information resource on the subjects discussed, and should not be considered tailored to specific individual circumstances or a replacement for legal counsel. While we exert significant effort to ensure the accuracy of our information, HR Consulting TAS cannot ensure that all content on this website is consistently accurate, exhaustive, or current. Recommendations by HR Consulting TAS and any information acquired from this website should not be regarded as legal advice.

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