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:
- 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.