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Performance on Trial: Effective Probationary Period Arrangements

June 22, 2017

Many employers and HR professionals assume they have no obligations to probationary employees until the probationary period has ended, but this simply isn’t true. Probationary employment involves a new hire performing a job for a predetermined trial period before the employer decides whether to offer them a permanent position. Recently, court rulings on Canadian employment law have consistently supported the notion that probationary employees should be given reasonable opportunity to demonstrate their ability to perform the job they were hired for before being terminated. In other words, probationary periods do not provide an employer with carte blanche—or unrestricted authority—to terminate employees while they are on probation. In fact, many employers mishandle the probationary process by extending it and then dismissing probationary employees without notice, or pay in lieu of notice, leaving themselves vulnerable to wrongful dismissal claims.

Probationary periods may seem simple, but both employers and employees can become confused regarding their application and legality. Employers should never shy away from using probationary periods, because they do offer value when determining a new hire’s ability to perform a job under ‘real life’ conditions. Employers should use a well-drafted employment contract that clearly defines the probationary terms employees must agree to. In addition, they should make the expectations of the position clear and use the probationary period to work with the employee help them succeed in their new role.

So what are some of the obligations around probationary periods, and what is the best way to administer them? Download our FREE Probationary Period Best Practice Guide, which outlines strategies that your organization can implement to deliver effective probationary employment arrangements.

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