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Probationary period review process

Last reviewed on 03 August 2018

This process guide sets out the steps that managers should follow for carrying out reviews during a colleague’s probationary period. All template letters and forms can be found on the Intranet.

Informal discussions

Managers should give colleagues ongoing feedback throughout their probationary period so they know how things are going. If managers have any concerns about the new colleague’s performance, conduct or attendance, they shouldn’t wait for a formal review but should discuss things informally with the colleague as soon as possible and agree the steps they need to take to improve. There’s a template Informal Discussion Notes Form which managers can use if they want.

First Formal Probationary Period Review

Colleagues will normally have a First Formal Probationary Period Review with their manager halfway through their probationary period. So for example, colleagues with a 13 week probationary period will have this once they’ve been in the role for just over six weeks. In some business areas this may be earlier – managers will let colleagues know when the reviews will happen.

If managers have any serious concerns about the colleague’s performance, conduct or attendance and it’s not been possible to resolve these issues informally, they can choose to hold a First Formal Probationary Period Review at an earlier point.

Managers should use the First Formal Probationary Period Review Form template to support this meeting. There’s also a template letter (PP1) to invite the colleague to the meeting. Colleagues can be accompanied by either a trade union representative or a work colleague if they like.

During the review, managers should agree an action plan with the colleague – a template for this is included in the review form. This sets out any improvements the colleague needs to make and by when, as well as any training or support that the manager will provide.

If the manager has no significant concerns at the first review, then the colleague won’t usually have another formal review until the end of their probationary period. But of course regular feedback should continue and if any concerns arise, managers should discuss these informally with the colleague. And if things can’t be resolved informally, managers can decide to hold a Second Formal Probationary Review meeting (see below) at any point.

Second Formal Probationary Period Review

If there are any areas of significant concern at the first review, the manager should agree a date for a Second Formal Probationary Period Review - usually four weeks later - and confirm this to the colleague in template letter PP2. Again, colleagues can be accompanied by either a trade union representative or a work colleague if they like.

At this meeting they should assess the colleague’s progress towards their action plan and agree any further actions that need to be taken. Again there’s a template form for this.

End of Probationary Period Formal Review

At the end of the probationary period, all colleagues will have an End of Probationary Period Formal Review Meeting – template invite letter (PP3) and review form on the Intranet. Again, colleagues can be accompanied by either a trade union representative or a work colleague if they like.

At this meeting managers should review the action plan and assess whether the colleague is carrying out their role effectively. If everything’s gone well, the manager should send the colleague a letter (PP4) to congratulate them that they have successfully completed their probationary period – a copy should also be sent to HR Services.

If the manager has any concerns about the colleague’s performance, attendance or conduct they should give them the opportunity to discuss these in the meeting before making a decision.

Extension of probationary period

At the end of the meeting, if the manager still has concerns about the colleague’s performance, conduct or attendance, they may decide to extend the probationary period. This will give the colleague more time to get the level of training or support that they need or to improve any performance, conduct or attendance issues.

If it’s necessary to extend a probationary period, we’ll only extend it once, for a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of 12 weeks.

Managers should confirm the extension in a letter (PP5) to the colleague and also inform HR Services of the extension. Template letter PP6 should be used to invite the colleague to a review meeting at the end of the extension

We may also decide to extend a colleague’s probationary period if they have been off work sick, or absent for other reasons for a length of time during this period. Managers should send the colleague a letter (PP7) to let them know that their probationary period has been put on hold and will restart when they return to work.

Termination of employment within probationary period

If a manager believes that the colleague has had the required level of training and support but still has concerns about their performance, conduct or attendance levels, they may decide to end their employment. This decision can be taken at any formal review meeting, during or at the end of their probationary period or after an extension period. Managers should contact ER Services for advice before making the decision.

Managers should confirm their decision in a letter (PP8-11 as appropriate) to the colleague and tell them about their right to appeal – see below.

Colleagues will normally receive payment in lieu of notice in line with their contract of employment. But if they have committed an act of gross misconduct, they may be summarily dismissed without notice or payment in lieu of notice.

If the colleague doesn’t turn up for a probationary period review meeting which may result in dismissal, we’ll rearrange it and write to confirm the new details (template letter PP12 or PP13 as appropriate). If they don’t turn up for the rearranged meeting, we’ll look at all the evidence available and make a decision without them being there – unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case we’ll rearrange it once more. Any rescheduled meetings will usually be within a week of the original meeting time.

Appeal

The colleague has the right to appeal against their dismissal in writing within five working days of getting the outcome letter. In their appeal letter they should set out the reasons why they don’t believe the sanction is appropriate - there’s a template Probationary Period Appeal Form which colleagues can use if they want.

They will be invited to an appeal hearing with an independent manager – there’s a template letter (PP14) on the Intranet for this. They can be accompanied by either a trade union representative or a work colleague if they like.

During the meeting the appeal manager will ask the colleague to give their reasons for the appeal and to explain why they feel that the original decision wasn’t appropriate. They’ll then investigate the appeal and confirm their decision in a letter (PP15 if the appeal is upheld or PP16 if the appeal is rejected) to the colleague. This will normally be within 10 working days, but if it’s going to take longer they’ll let the colleague know (template letter PP17).

This is the end of the appeals process.