Dismissal During Probationary Periods – Is it Safe?

Probationary periods are a very useful tool and an important part of the selection process, provided used properly. However, their mis-use can be costly. Learn some useful tips to avoid problems in this area.

Whilst 12 months service is normally required (there are exceptions) to take a case under the Unfair Dismissal legislation, dismissed employees can take a case with less service under the IR legislation and significant awards can be made. In one such case €30,000 was awarded to a postmaster dismissed during his probationary period and the Labour Court determined that the employer had not used a fair process before effecting the termination.

Whilst it is not necessary to follow a full disciplinary procedure to effect a dismissal during a probationary period, I always advise to proceed with caution and not to dismiss without offering the employee the opportunity to rectify any issues that may have arisen.  Here are some useful tips:

Employers Tips

  • Include a clear probationary period clause in contract and make confirmation of appointment subject to satisfactory completion of probationary period;
  • Include notice periods that are required during probationary period (legally no notice required when service is less than 13 weeks);
  • Provide for the right to extend the probationary period including for periods of absence that may have arisen;
  • The maximum probationary period should be 9 months (including extensions);
  • Ensure that the disciplinary procedure does not apply to employees on probation;
  • Schedule review meetings during the probationary period and be clear about standards required from new employee;
  • If problems arise bring them to attention of employee straight away and highlight required improvement and within what time frame;
  • Make sure employee understands consequence of failing to improve and that their employment will be terminated;
  • Act quickly but fairly as very often problems that arise can be rectified and it may be a better option than having to recruit again.