Why do companies commonly place new hires on probation?

Updated on August 8, 2023
Why do companies commonly place new hires on probation

If you are new to this whole finding a job and employment thing, you might be surprised to find out that you can’t just walk into a company’s office and demand a nice desk by the window.

After applying for a job and going through a successful interview, you are then hired so you can officially start your job trial period for the next few months or so. Wait, what?

Companies place new hires on probation to determine if they will become effective employees. The probation period will give the managing staff enough time to assess if the new recruit fits the position well and is able to carry out their duties up to a level that the company deems satisfactory.

So if you're new to a job or about to start a new job, you might be wondering: what is a probation period at work?

Here we will take a closer look at the different nuances of a job probation period and what it means for your career and professional track record.

What is a probationary period in a job?

What is a probationary period in a job

A probationary period for a job is basically a trial period given to you by your employer to see if you will be able to do your job. The company that hired you may refer to this period as orientation, training, or introductory period but they are all essentially the same thing.

The probation period's meaning and significance are to put a new employee through a job trial to effectively gauge them professionally.

During the probation period, the employer will closely monitor the new employee's performance and ability to follow company guidelines.

Their soft skills and personal qualities will be considered as well. The aim is to determine if the new hire is reliable, responsible, efficient, and productive.

However, some employees will not make the cut, and companies may not be able to afford to give them more time to learn and improve professionally.

This results in the dismissal of the new hires. From what I have found out, around 18% of job trial periods are failed.

How long is the probation period for a job?

Usually, a probation period for a job is from 3 to 6 months. However, the period can be stretched for up to a year for some high-level executive positions. The performance and the achievement of work-related targets by the new recruit can also play a role in how long the probation period will last.

Here is a breakdown of the typical job probation periods.

  • 3 months probation period – Usually given for entry-level positions (interns, clerks, operators, admins)
  • 6 months probation period – Usually given for mid-level positions (project managers, team leads, assistant managers)
  • 12 months probation period – Usually given for executive-level positions (CEO, COO, CTO, etc.)

Does every company have a probation period?

Most companies, in most cases, opt for a probation period when a new recruit is hired.

However, a probation period is technically not mandatory. It is just a good practice that is followed in 99% of the cases.

Technically, an employer can choose to omit a probation period for certain recruits. It all comes down to preferences and what the employment contract actually says.

The benefits of a probationary period for an employee

The benefits of a probationary period for an employee

During a probationary period, you can determine if you like working for the company that hired you. Your employer will be assessing you. But keep in mind that you will be assessing them as well.

This is your opportunity to see if the company fits you both culturally and professionally. Hopefully the person who is assigned to train you as a new employee will do a good job to make you feel welcome.

The upside of a probationary period

  • Employment – You are being paid for your time.
  • Experience – You are working in your niche and gaining experience.
  • Feedback – Your work is closely monitored and you are improving.

The downside of a probationary period

  • Not secure – The employer may decide to let you go at the end of the period.
  • Stressful – Being closely monitored can bring you some unwanted stress.
  • Missing perks – Such as health benefits and PTO (paid time off).

(Also, keep in mind that after your probation is over, it would be perfectly acceptable to ask for a raise.)

Can you be fired during the probation period?

Can you be fired during the probation period

Yes, in the sense of being let go. But it will probably be counted as failing your probation rather than an official firing. If you are underperforming, if your behavior is deemed unacceptable, or if you are involved in gross misconduct, then your employer is in their right to dismiss you.

However, if you think that you are being fired under unfair circumstances – known legally as Wrongful Dismissal – then you need to see what your employment contract (agreement) says and check your local laws and regulations.

You might want to consult with a lawyer to determine if you can take things to court.

(Also, during your probation, do your best not to be late for work on a regular basis as this may cost you the job.)

Is failing probation the same as being fired?

No, it is not the same thing. Failing probation means that from the start you lacked some essential professional and/or soft skills, or you weren’t able to adhere to company policy. Being a full-time employee and getting fired means that you were seen as fit for the job but you messed up eventually.

In terms of track record, being fired is worse than failing a job probation period because it shows that your failure was brought on through faults of your own.

If a potential future employer runs a background check on you and they find out that you have been fired from a previous job, they would be a lot more reluctant to hire you.

Can you fail probation due to sickness?

Yes, you can fail your job probation due to sickness. If you have a legitimate medical reason to be away from work for a week or two, I’d say that an employer will be willing to cope with that.

But any longer than that, especially for an uncertain period of time, and they may decide to let you go.

This would be plain bad luck but your employer may decide that they can’t afford to wait for you to get back to work.

They can go over your employment agreement to determine if it would be safe for them to let you go. This would be a very unpleasant and unfair situation but it can indeed happen.

If you can’t go to the office but you are still able to work, talk to your employer if it would be possible for you to work from home.

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the work-from-home option has been ever more popular. Perhaps you will be able to figure out a compromise.

Can I apply for another job while on probation?

Can I apply for another job while on probation

Yes, you can apply for another job while on probation. You can always apply for another job even if you are a full-time employee. There is nothing stopping you. But you have to keep in mind that it can be tricky to switch jobs like this if your employment agreement says that you have a notice period.

A notice period of 1 month (if any at all) is usually the norm with new recruits who are on probation. But keep in mind that it usually takes at least a month or two to learn a new job properly.

But if another company wants to hire you and you’d like to leave the current position, then you can simply go to your current boss and talk to them.

Tell them in a friendly and polite way that you don’t see yourself working for the company and that you’d like to leave as soon as possible.

They might be willing to let you go sooner or immediately depending on the situation and what your employment agreement says.

Key takeaways

  • Companies put new recruits through job probation periods to gauge them professionally.
  • During the trial period, the new hires are monitored closely and their work is regularly evaluated.
  • The purpose is to determine if they would be a good fit for the position and the company.
  • Job probation periods can last from 3 to 6 months, and up to a year for high-level management positions.
  • Make sure to check our guide on how to find a job without any previous experience.
Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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