Trial and probationary periods

Trial and probationary periods can be used to make sure an employee can do the job. These must be agreed in the employment agreement. A probationary period cannot be applied after a trial period.

Trial periods and probationary periods are options which can be used by employers and employees to assess and make sure that the employee can do the job. These options shouldn’t be used instead of a proper recruitment process.

Probationary periods and trial periods are used for similar reasons but they have different requirements and effects:

  • A trial period can only be used for new employees, so it can’t be used if the employee already works for the employer but wants to try a new role. In this situation a probationary period can be used.
  • Trial periods can only be used for up to 90 days. A probationary period is not limited to 90 days, so it could potentially be used for a longer assessment period, if agreed and reasonable.
  • An employee can’t bring a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal at the end of a trial period, but an employee can bring a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal in relation to a probationary period.

Trial periods

Employers can use 90-day trial periods when hiring new employees. Trial periods must be agreed between the employer and employee in a written employment agreement prior to the employee starting work.

Probationary periods

Can be used to find out if an employee can do a new job or for employees who are changing jobs with the same employer. Probationary periods must be in the employment agreement.

Page last revised: 22 December 2023

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