Editor's message: There is no legal requirement to set a probationary period for new employees, but doing so gives your organisation an opportunity to assess new recruits over an appropriate period of time. This helps ensure that they are suitable for the role and also allows new recruits to make sure that the role, and the organisation, is right for them.
Of course, a probationary period will be effective only if it is properly structured and effectively managed, with the employee's progress monitored and guidance given on a regular basis. This is a job that typically falls to the organisation's line managers, who need to be fully aware of their responsibilities in this area. It is key that they adhere to holding the final probationary review and taking the appropriate action - confirming the employee in the role, terminating his or her employment or extending the probationary period - before the agreed probationary period has come to an end. Not doing so, and potentially allowing the employee to be confirmed in the position by default, will mean that the employee may become entitled to any contractual rights and benefits dependent on the satisfactory completion of a probationary period, including, potentially, a longer notice period.
Stephen Simpson, principal employment law editor
HR and legal information and guidance relating to probationary periods.