Managing employees: The HR essentials all employers and managers need to know!


Video Four  – Probation Periods – Letting go can be easier than holding on

Kath: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the fourth video in our series, HR Essentials What Employers Need to Know. This video is all about probation periods. So sometimes it’s easier to let go than it is to hang onto an employee. Again, today I’m joined by Paulette McCormack from Fresh HR Insights. Hi, Paulette, how are you?

Paulette: Hi, I’m good thank you. It’s great to have you along again.

This is the fourth video that we’ve got. As I said, we’re all talking all about probation periods today. So, I’ve got a few questions for you. The first question is, are probation periods actually beneficial to an employer?

Oh, they are. I don’t know why people don’t have them in place. If you bring an employee onboard, and they’re just not working out, you’ve got the probation period that you can dismiss them in. And just let them go. Because holding on is worse than letting go sometimes. So, if you’ve got an employee, and like you were saying when we went through recruitment last week, or last month we went through the recruitment. You had a staff member there that just wasn’t working out.

You’d obviously had them through the recruitment process, and they weren’t working out. Well, you can just let them go. Call them into a meeting, “Hey, look, we’ve gone through this. We’ve looked at this. Unfortunately, we’re going to file you within your probation period.” Pay them their weeks’ notice, and off they go. Simple as that.

Simple as that. That’s great. What a great resource that is available for employers. Sometimes when you do take people on, they’re not the right ones, so it’s easier in that way to move them on than it is to keep them around.

Just let them go. But obviously there are time frames within the probation period to file. If you’re an employer with over 15 staff, you’ve had to have let them go by five months, pretty much. Because you’ve got to include the notice period time within that as well, so it’d be five months and one week. But you would know by five months. Don’t think, “Oh, they might improve. They might improve. They might improve. They might improve.” Because if they’re not working, they’re really not going to work.

So, you’re really better off letting them go earlier and sooner rather than later.

Yes, before they’ve embedded them self in your culture as well, before they can do damage to your business as well.

Okay. So, the next question. Can you actually extend a probation period?

Again, if we look at the minimum in terms of employment, or the minimum employment period. So, if you’ve got a staff member, you’re a small business and less than 15, then 12 months is where they get their unfair dismissal rights. So, within that time, they don’t have access to that. They’re out of jurisdiction for unfair dismissal. If you’re a business with more than 15, you’ve only got six months. So, if your probation period’s six months, you’ve got more than 15 staff, there is no point extending it because the employees are going to get their unfair dismissal rights anyway. Again, I go back to if at three, four months they’re not working out, probably not going to work out.

So best to get rid of them then.

Best to let them go.

Okay. All right. Now the other question is, when can’t you dismiss in probation?

Oh, so when can’t you dismiss? There’s whole bunch of different ones that you cannot dismiss. You’ve obviously got general protections as well. So, if an employee is off on sickness, as an example, you can’t dismiss them in their probation period because it could come back at you, you’ve dismissed them because they’re off on sick. They took on sick. So, you’re going to have a general protection claim that’s probably going to come your way. Also, you can’t dismiss them based on a protected attribute. So, you get a new employee onboard, two months down there, “I’m pregnant.” “Oh, sorry, you’ve failed your probation period.” You’re likely to get discrimination chiming in on that one. So, you wouldn’t be able to do that as well.

Also, if you don’t follow the terms and conditions of your employment contract that you have in place with your employee as well. So that would be breach of contract. Okay? So, there are some areas that you need to be aware of as well. You do need to take all reasonable steps to assist the employee within that period as well.

So you’re giving them all the right training so that they can do the best that they can possibly do within that probation period.

Yeah, the tools of the job. What I say is treat a person the way that you’d want to be treated. So, imagine if you’re a new person in a workplace. What will you need to support you to be successful? There’s no point in checking someone in, and going, “Off you go.”

That’s it. They’ve got no hope of winning the game, have they?

No, they haven’t. So, give them the opportunity to at least succeed because the recruitment process, as we’ve gone through, can be expensive. So make the most of it. Get it right. Then you’ve got the probation period if it isn’t working out. Now I’m not saying, and I definitely would not encourage you to get people up to five months all the time, then sack them. Get people to five months, then sack them, and become a serial person doing that. Because you’ll soon get a bad reputation for it, and you’ll have no culture within your business. If you’re in the customer service industry, your customers are going to know as well.

You’re going to have no consistency. So, what you actually want is to get a person on board, and have them there for a long term, a long period of time.

And it also gets expensive if you keep taking people on, and recruiting them, and then getting rid of them.

Because it’s the training up prices, it’s not just the recruitment. It’s the training up as well. But the probation period’s there as your get out of jail card, I guess, if you want to call it that. It should be utilized.

Yeah, of course. I’ve got one more question for you in regard to probation periods and independent contractors. Can you use probation periods with independent contractors?

Well, with an independent contractor you’re going to have an independent contract or agreement in place with them, and you’re going to have your terms of ceasing engagement with them within there as well. So, there’s not really the point of having a probation period. They’re not actually necessarily going to fall under the Fair Work Legislation.

Because they’re not technically employees.

They’re not technically employees. However, word of warning, be careful about the independent contractors and employees. You needed to have made sure the totality of the relationship shows out differently in independent contractor.

Definitely another topic for discussion. If you’ve got any questions of us, you know what? We’re here, we don’t bite. Get in touch. We wanna talk to you.

Get in touch with either of us. We’d be happy to have a chat with you. Until then, we’ll see you with our next video in the series.



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