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Probation Periods – Common Questions Answered

Published August 25, 2016 (last updated on July 1, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


Probationary periods often cause a level of uncertainty. Many employers can be confused about the length of probation periods, who they apply to, the extent of their obligations associated with them and more.

The Fair Work Act 2009 does not set out any specific legislative requirements when it comes to probationary periods. However, they still feature prominently in employment contracts and are lawful.

What is a probationary period?

A probation period is a time in which new employees work under probationary terms. Depending on the type of business, a probation period may last from any length of time between one month to several years. The probationary period affords employers the opportunity to assess their new employees and give a basis to either continue or cease the working relationship.

A probationary period gives you the opportunity to assess whether your new employee is capable, reliable and suitable for the job. It is important to note, the length of the probation must be included in all employment contracts and it is not a separate period of employment and employees in this part of employment meaning all entitlements are relevant during this time.

Do casual and temporary employees have a probationary period?

Probationary periods of employment are generally not applicable to casual or temporary contracts. This is because generally, these types of employees do not have a notice period.

What must I do if I decide to terminate an employee’s employment during probation?

If you decide to dismiss a probationary employee, you should ensure you are in a position to prove the reason for dismissal and show it was conducted with procedural fairness. Visit Peninsula’s guide on Dismissal and Termination for more information.

Can probationary periods be extended?

Probationary periods can be extended, so long as you provide fair and reasonable grounds to do so. The extension must also be agreed upon by both parties in writing.

What should I do when the probationary period is over?

As soon as the probationary period is over, let your employee know whether they have passed. Always have a written record of this discussion. If the employee is dismissed, they are entitled to have their unused leave paid out.

Probationary periods can be a confusing workplace matter for employers. As Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist, Peninsula can advise you on how best to approach probationary periods. You can speak with a specialist today on 1300 651 415.

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