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Understanding Employee Probation Periods
By Sonya Buck, Australia

Hiring the right people is tricky and even after you think you’ve done the hard yards with the recruitment process, sometimes like a box of chocolates ‘you never know what you are going to get’.

Offering probation periods to new recruits gives you time to carry out continued evaluation and assessment which includes a number of factors including suitability for the job, standards and behaviour and culture fit. Probation also gives the new employee time to see if this is the role for them.

The probation period offered is closely linked to the Fair Work Act’s minimum employment period and this is six months from the date of commencement for larger organisations or twelve months for small business employers, with fewer than fifteen staff. (Check current legislation) Looking from the new employee’s point of view, 12 months does seem a long time to feel insecure about your tenure.

Throughout the minimum employment period, employers must still comply with the required notice periods. Check the legislation for required notice periods and exceptions.

Casual team members are exempt from a probationary period. This is because, by nature of the type of employment, casual team members are considered terminated at the end of their last shift and cannot reasonably foresee an ongoing employment relationship.

At the start of any probationary period ensure your new recruit completes an induction, any training needs are ascertained and a training plan is put in place. Arrange regular catchups so that you both can provide feedback.

During any probation period, you and/or your staff are going to need to devote time to the new employee, otherwise they won’t get off on the right foot and you will not know if they are progressing.

Arrange regular catchups so that you both can provide feedback, particularly if they are not a direct report. The probationary period gives an employer the opportunity to see if all tasks are being completed correctly and the new employee is meeting expectations. You can also ascertain their strengths and weaknesses and arrange extra training or assistance from other staff members.

Remember, during the probationary period all relevant legislation such as discrimination, harassment, bullying, etc, applies to their employment.

Sometimes is difficult to know if you have hired the right candidate until they have had time to settle into their role, so probationary periods give you an opportunity to confirm that you have made the right decision.