How to Dismiss an Employee on Probation

In most cases, when companies hire a new employee, the employee is subject to a probationary period of 1-6 months. This period is to help both the employee and employer ensure that they’re a good match for each other.

The employer gets to assess the employee’s performance and fit for the company, while the employee puts in the effort required to help them decide if they’re happy with the job. This period also gives the lacking employee the chance to improve their performance in their assigned job role.

Unfortunately, some employees are unable to cut it during this period. Most of the time, their inability to perform is usually because the employee lacks the requisite skill set that would have kept them in that role. But there are also other reasons such as tardiness or a lack of punctuality, inability to embrace the company culture, gross misconduct, prolonged absence at work, and other disagreeable tendencies.

Managers should address any concerns that come to light as soon as practicable (depending on the severity of the concerns), this should be done via a Mid-Probation Review Meeting. This allows the employee the opportunity to change/improve.

When there are no improvements, or there has been a case of gross misconduct and you decide to terminate employment, it’s important that you give them a week’s notice (unless a different period is stipulated in the contract).

As an employer, if you’re worried about a possible “unfair dismissal claim” from the employee, don’t. Unless the employee has been on probation for over 2 years (not likely or recommended), then employees are unable to file an unfair dismissal case due to their length of service. In order to dismiss the employee, you should complete the following:

  • Gather relevant information

Start by collecting information and data from managers and supervisors that the employee has worked/is working with. More specifically, see if there are exact dates and times when the employee breached one or more of their probationary terms or evidence of where the employee has not performed to required standards. It is important to have this information so that you can clearly explain these issues to the employee.

  • Invite the employee to a probation review meeting

After taking the first two steps, it’s time to meet with the employee. Write to the employee to invite them to a face-to-face meeting (or a zoom meeting if they’re a remote employee and can’t come into the office). The meeting should be arranged just before the date at which the probation is due to end rather than after.

Also mention in the mail or letter, that a potential outcome of this meeting may be dismissal from the company because they have not met the required standards of performance or whatever your reasons are. Inform them that they have the right to be accompanied at the meeting with a representative. This could be a union rep or a work colleague.

  • Conduct the probation review meeting

At the meeting, discuss the employees’ performance to date; confirm where they have failed to meet the required standards and allow them to respond.

  • Make a decision

Sometimes, people have a solid reason for breaching the terms of the contract i.e. if the employee was pregnant or unavoidably ill and so be prepared to take into account any mitigating circumstances. Based on their response, decide if you can perhaps, extend the probation period as opposed to dismissal. If, however, you decide not to continue with employment, confirm this to them and issue them with a letter which summarises your decision and reasons for this. (You do not need to give the employee the right to appeal).

  • Termination letter

This letter will contain three parts. The first is that the employee didn’t meet company expectations or standards during the probation period, and is, therefore, to be dismissed. Second, specifically mention the reasons for termination. Thirdly, clearly state when they’re expected return all company property in their possession, as well as, and when all outstanding payments that they’re being owed will be paid.


Admittedly, this can be difficult. So, if you need a pro to handle this, contact us today, we are happy to help.

If you need HR support from a company that understands the needs of your business, contact us today. At Harwood HR we can support your business, help you to grow and promote your employees’ talents. Our UK-based team offers a range of HR support services and advice for SME businesses, including outsourced HR support.



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