Probationary employees

You are entitled to require a newly hired employee to serve a period of probation before confirmation of his or her appointment. But can you dismiss an employee at the end of his or her probationary period?

These are the guidelines to follow when employing someone on probation and considering whether or not to dismiss him or her at the end of the probationary period:

  • The period of probation must be reasonable with reference to the nature of the job, and the time that it takes to determine the employee’s suitability for employment, and must be determined in advance.
  • During probation the employee’s performance should be assessed and, if s/he fails to meet the required standards, s/he must be informed of his or her shortcomings.
  • To improve performance s/he should be afforded all reasonable assistance, guidance and training.
  • At the end of the period you may dismiss an employee or extend the probationary period, but only after you afford the employee an opportunity to make representations. A union representative or fellow employee may assist an employee in these circumstances.
  • You have a considerable degree of latitude in assessing a probationary employee’s suitability for permanent employment as long as you have fairly evaluated his or her performance and done your best to assist, guide and train the prospective employee but found him or her to be unsuitable. Of course, your assessment must have been a genuine one that was made in good faith and founded on ‘objectively ascertainable criteria that go beyond irrational or arbitrary whims, likes or dislikes of the particular employer …’

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