Termination of Employment While on Probation

Written by mary tucker-mclaughlin
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Termination of Employment While on Probation
Many employers maintain a probationary period for new employees. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Probationary employment agreements are fairly common in industry. These agreements have a prearranged length of time that varies from organisation to organisation. Probation for a new employee is a chance for the company to review your skills before you are officially hired. Most companies have general guidelines for administering probationary periods. Termination under these agreements is not uncommon. As a probationary employee you will sign an agreement that states that you understand the probationary terms. Understand these terms before you sign the agreement.

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Companies use probationary periods as a way of screening a new employee's skills before officially making an employment offer. Probation prevents employers from having to provide notice of dismissal. These probationary terms at times have legal issues, however. Setting up a probationary employment clause requires legal counsel to prevent liability. Employers who fail to provide adequate training, adequate documentation or adequate notice of the terms of probation could find themselves in court.


It's not that you were terminated after a probationary period, it's that you were not hired. It's not unusual, however, for employers to get caught in legal tangles over a probationary agreement. Probationary terms differ between union and nonunion shops. In a union shop, the collective bargaining agreement defines any probationary term agreements. Nonunion shops can protect themselves against legal liability by drafting a comprehensive probationary agreement with the help of an attorney.

Probationary Agreement Terms

The probationary employment agreement should state clearly the terms of the probation. A clause that states the period of time, for example 90 days, and includes how the employee's employment under this agreement constitutes a period of probation during which the employer shall have the opportunity to assess the suitability of the employee's performance. The performance criteria should be clearly stated along with the term of probation. Communicate that the employee will be assessed based on specific criteria, including performance and conduct. During the probationary term, the employee should be given an interim review during the probation.


Probationary periods provide employers with a preview of an employee's performance before they must form a permanent relationship. If handled carefully, the probationary term can help ensure that you make the "right" hire. It is critical to include a clause in the contract that puts the employee on notice that termination can be given without notice under the terms of the agreement if performance is deemed unsatisfactory. Handled with care, the probationary agreement can protect employers from making the wrong hire. Sloppy execution of a probationary contract could result in a lousy employee becoming a legal liability.

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