How Long Should a Probation Period Last?

“While a probationary period of less than three months probably won’t give an employer enough time to assess whether a new employee is a good fit for the business, anything longer than six months might put an unfair amount of pressure on the employee.” (Last, 2016).

Although there is no legislation determining the length of a probation period, there is an expectation that an employer will be reasonable.

In general, a probation period will last between three and six months, with a possible extension of two months – for a maximum of eight months.

However, there are variations between employers and groups of employees, for example:

  • Entry-level jobs and roles may have a three month probation period whilst higher-level jobs and roles may have a six month probation period.
  • A company may adopt a six month probation period for externally selected employees and a three month probation period for internally selected employees.
  • Some companies have been known to adopt a twelve to twenty-four month probation period.
    Employees on short-term contracts (i.e. less than twelve months) or casual workers may have a short probation period, as little as one week.
  • In 1992, probation periods for newly qualified teachers (NQT’s) were dropped, but the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 introduced arrangements by which the Secretary of State for Education could bring introduce regulations requiring NQT’s to serve a period of probation. The Education (Induction Arrangements for School Teacher) (England) Regulations 1999 made it a requirement that all NQT’s complete an induction period equivalent to one year upon qualification as a teacher.
  • In general, anything over twelve months may be viewed as excessive (unless the employer can justify its reasoning).
  • For example, a member of a police force appointed in the rank of constable “…shall be on probation for the first two years of his service…” (Home Office, 2015).

Regardless of the length of the probation period adopted by the employer, it should be explicitly stated in the contract of employment – If not the employee should get it confirmed in writing.

The employee should note when their period of employment commenced and, from this, when their probation period should finish (subject to any reasonable period of extension).

You can find out more about probation periods here.


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