When an Employee on Probation is Experiencing Difficulties

If the employee is experiencing problems at any stage during their probation period the employer should discuss these with the employee, and not wait until the next scheduled review meeting.

The primary purpose of ongoing assessment is to facilitate a sustained improvement in performance of the employee and to ensure that they have had sufficient opportunities to achieve this. At any subsequent review or informal meeting with the employee where there are issues to be addressed, employers should consider the following approach:

  • Why are things not going as expected?
  • Have expected requirements been set too high?
  • Have there been any internal/external factors that have affected the development of the employee? For example, a delay in training.
  • What can the organisation/employer do to help the process get back on track?
  • Has the organisation got the right employee but in the wrong job? Could another job/role be more suitable?
  • Has the organisation hired the wrong employee? For example, cultural fit?
  • Reinforce the areas where the employee is doing well.
  • Be open and honest with the employee about their performance issues, and provide documentary evidence whenever possible.
  • Give the employee the opportunity to respond – There might be some other factor behind the problem.
  • Try to reach an agreement on the nature of the problem. If joint agreement can be reached the employee is more likely to react positively to any suggestion for improvement.
  • Offer guidance and support on how to overcome the difficulties. This might include extra training/coaching or closer supervision.
  • Ensure the employee understands the degree of progress required and that successful completion of the probation period is dependent on it.
  • Warn the employee that if this standard is not reached it will be necessary to terminate their employment.
  • In the case of misconduct, short of gross misconduct (for which summary dismissal will be appropriate), warn the employee that any further misconduct will lead to immediate termination of their employment.

You can find out more about probation periods here.


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