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Induction and probation

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Use this series of pages to guide you through the steps to take when recruiting staff. This includes designing, advertising, shortlisting and interviewing for the role, offering the job and inducting new staff.

Good induction and probation programmes can lead to more settled employees, better work performance and improved employee relations. This page can help you set them up.

Induction

An induction period helps new employees get to know their new organisation and understand their place within it.

An effective induction starts before the employee’s first day and continues during the first week or two at work. Once an employee’s completed their induction, they should understand:

  • what your organisation does and the jobs other people do
  • their role
  • how they will undertake the duties outlined in their job description
  • the organisation’s policies and procedures
  • how what they do fits in with the wider aims of the organisation.

You should build an induction process that’s flexible to meet individual needs.

  • Looking for more detailed guidance? Read Acas’s guide to inducting staff.
  • Our HR trusted suppliers can help you develop your policies and procedures
  • Need guidance on planning your induction process? Click the button below to download our induction checklist.

Probation

A probation period is a trial period of employment, typically lasting six months.

The terms of probation should be set out in the written statement of terms and conditions. Your organisation may also have a specific probation procedure.

You should have a system in place to ensure a new employee’s performance and conduct is reviewed regularly during this period. For example, you could schedule probation review meetings:

  • at the end of the first week
  • at the end of the first month
  • when the employee has been in post for three months
  • when the employee has been in post for just under six months.

At each meeting, you should review progress against the job description and any specific objectives or targets.

At the end of the probation period, you’ll need to decide whether to:

  • confirm the employee in post
  • extend their probationary period
  • terminate their employment.

What to do when probation is not going well

If you have concerns about your employee’s performance, take the following steps.

  1. Be specific about your concerns (give examples).
  2. Explain what good performance looks like.
  3. Let the employee know that if things don’t improve, you may need to extend their probationary period or terminate their contract.
  4. Ask the employee if there are specific barriers preventing them from achieving their best. If there are, work with the employee to remove these barriers. Provide additional training or coaching if needed.
  5. Keep a record of the discussions you have with the employee.
  6. Give the employee a clear note confirming your discussions.
  7. Arrange to meet regularly with the employee to help them improve their performance and to review progress. How regularly you meet will depend on the specific circumstance, but a brief meeting each week to keep the employee on track is often better than a longer meeting each month.

Extending probation

If the employee’s performance remains unsatisfactory, but could improve given a little more time, you could extend the probationary period.

You should make it clear to the employee that if things don’t improve during the extended period, you may need to terminate their contract.

Set out clearly the improvements you expect to see during the extended probationary period. Consider if you need to supply any extra support or training to help the employee meet your expectations.

Record details of the decision to extend probation in writing and give a copy to the employee.

Terminating employment during or at the end of the probationary period

If you decide to terminate an employee’s contract during or at the end of the probationary period, make sure you follow your organisation’s probationary procedure (if you have one).

If you don’t have a procedure, you should take the following steps.

  1. Write to the employee to invite them to a meeting. In your letter, explain your concerns and that one outcome of the meeting could be the termination of employment. The letter should also inform the employee of their right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative at the meeting. Aim to give the employee a minimum of two days’ notice before the meeting.
  2. Hold the meeting. Both you and the employee should have the opportunity to give your points of view. You should consider fully what the employee says about their work performance.
  3. Keep an open mind and don’t make a final decision on whether to terminate the employee’s contract until you have heard and considered everything from the employee. After the meeting, adjourn and review what has been said, including any new information.
  4. Inform the employee about your decision, which could be to terminate employment, extend the probationary period or to confirm the individual in post. If you decide to terminate employment, set this out in writing, giving the notice required in the contract of employment/statement of written terms and conditions.
  5. If you decide to dismiss, you may wish to give the employee the right of appeal, reminding them of the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative at the appeal meeting. A more senior manager or trustee should hold this meeting. After the meeting, the appeal decision should be communicated to the employee.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 01 August 2022

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