Probationary Period of Employment: Policy & Termination

Instructor: Tara Schofield

Tara received her MBA from Adams State University and is currently working on her DBA from California Southern University. She spent 11 years as a sales and marketing executive. She spent several years with Western Governor's University as a faculty member. Tara has been at for seven years.

This lesson discusses two types of probationary periods of employment. It also explains how a probationary period policy can relate to termination, as well as how probationary periods can be beneficial to both the employee and employer.

What is a Probationary Period of Employment?

There are two common types of probationary periods of employment. The first type is typically entered into when a person takes a new job. Many companies implement a period of time where the employee and employer can determine if the job is a good fit for the new staff member. The second type of probationary period is usually a result of an employee not meeting the expectations of the position or having done something that breaks company policy. A time frame is determined in which the employee will be required to work on performance issues in an attempt to avoid being terminated. Each type of probationary period is further explained below.

Probationary Period for a New Employee

A new job can be exciting for both the new employee and the company that has hired them. However, there is always a chance that the technical or interpersonal skills of a new team member will not fit the needs of the organization. As a way to protect themselves from legal issues and unqualified employees, companies often institute a probationary period to analyze the performance of a new employee. The length of the probationary period can vary, but 90 days is fairly common; this allows for adequate time to determine if an employee is able to perform the work that is needed and learn the new skills necessary to be successful at the job.

From an employee's perspective, a probationary period is a helpful way to try out a company and see if it supports their goals and plans. If a new employee finds they are not happy at a company or the position is not what they expected, knowing they have a probationary period in which it is appropriate to leave the company without any ramifications can offer peace of mind.

Probationary Period to Prevent Termination

The second type of probationary period is not as pleasant, since it is typically implemented in response to a serious error, inappropriate action, or breaking of a company policy. When a person has violated a rule or policy, some companies will extend a probationary period for the employee to make amends and adjust their performance to match expectations. A probationary period is often the final step before an employee is fired, with the objective being to support the employee's efforts to salvage their job.

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