Employers can test the skills of a new employee or a current employee moving to a new position through using a probation period. Probation periods can last for any amount of time (the standard length is around three to six months) but the length of time must be recorded in the employment agreement. Employees on a probation period have the same minimum rights and entitlements as any other worker.
During the probation period, it is good practice to monitor the employee’s progress and offer support where needed to make the transition for the employee easier. To ensure the probation period is fair and in good faith, employers must:
If the probation period is going particularly well, employers can end the period early and have the employee sign a new employment agreement to confirm any changes.
Probationary employees are entitled to the same benefits as other employees under New Zealand Employment Law (correct pay, leave, notice period, dismissal process etc.).
Employers should be aware that it is unlawful to force an employee into a probation period. If an employee signs an agreement that unknowingly has a probation period clause, the probation aspect of the agreement will be invalid. Employers cannot treat probationary employees differently to other workers or make threats in regards to continuing their employment.
If an employee feels they are being treated unfairly, they can file a personal grievance claim on the grounds of harassment.
If the probation period is not going well, an employer can choose to dismiss the employee. The dismissal process must be the same as dealing with any other worker.
Employers must make a fair assessment of the employee and their ability to do the job. If the employer decides to end their employment, they must tell the employee why they are wanting to do this and give them a chance to respond. Employers have to consider the response and if they still choose to end the employment, they must give the amount of notice stated in the employment agreement.
An employee can submit an unfair dismissal claim if they believe:
If the probation period has gone well, the employer does not have to do anything for the position to become permanent. The employment will simply continue as stated in the agreement, except the probation period will come to an end.
For advice on how to manage probation periods in the workplace, contact Employsure on 0800 675 700.