Probation period notice

A short notice period can ease the disappointment of a bad probation

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Wednesday, Jul 10, 2024

A probation is a trial period for a new employee. Most probations last between one and six months—you should make the length clear in the employee’s contract. You should also make sure your employee knows their probation period notice. Again, include this in their contract.

When they start working for you, you should set your employee’s targets and outline what you expect of them. This is a chance for you to learn about them, their skills, and their weaknesses.

If you or your employee decide that things aren't working out, and that the work relationship should end, a short notice period during probation can speed up the employee’s departure.

How much notice should I give during a probation period?

The amount of notice to give depends on the type of notice that you must give.

There are two types of notice—contractual notice and statutory notice. Contractual notice sits in the employee’s contract. It’s the agreed notice period that you or your employee must give to terminate the employment.

The bottom line is that you must give an employer at least the notice in their contract or the statutory minimum—whichever is longer.

Contractual notice periods

Typical contractual notice periods are:

  • Less than one week: staff who have been working for you for less than one month.
  • One week: staff who have been working for you for between one month and six months.
  • One month: staff who passed their probation.

Statutory notice periods

 If you did not include a notice period in the employee’s contract, you must use one of three statutory notice periods:

  1. One week: for staff whose tenure is between one month and two years.
  2. Two weeks: for staff whose tenure is two years.
  3. more than two weeks: you must give at least one week for every year your employee works for you after their second year. For example, nine years of service equals a minimum of nine weeks' notice.

To stay in control of your employees' notice periods, always include the length in their contract, which both parties must sign. 

Are there any employees I don't need to give a notice period to?

UK law does not give the right to a minimum notice period to employees who have been working for you for less than one month—most employees will still be on their probation at this point.

Employee FAQ: Do I have to work notice in a probation period?

The law requires employees to work probation period notice, but there are two exceptions to this rule:

Payment in lieu of notice (PILON)

This is where you can end the employment before the employee serves their notice. You must pay the employee for the full notice period.

Garden leave

The employee must serve their notice, but away from the workplace and without doing any work for your company. You might choose to send an employee on garden leave if they are leaving your company to join a competitor. You must pay them for the full notice period.

Lucy Cobb

Employment Law Specialist

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