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Should you extend probation if a new hire has been absent?

Updated: Mar 1

A new employee has been absent for most of their probation period. Where do you stand?


Assessment

When someone joins your business, you want to use that honeymoon period to assess their abilities and whether they are suitable. It is for you to decide how long that process will take. Typically, the more senior the position, the longer the probationary period. It's rarely longer than six months.

The clock doesn't stop

While they're away, the employee’s probation period continues. You may not have had sufficient time to assess them and you may be unable to meet them to discuss their progress. Extending their probation is logical but you need to have the contractual right to do it.

Contract

Retain the right to extend probation with the following wording in offer letters and employment contracts: 'If you are absent from work during your probationary period we may extend it by the period of your absence so that we can assess your performance.'

Reason for absence

Where an employee is absent because they're sick, you should take them at their word unless you have compelling evidence that they're lying. That would be a disciplinary issue. Remember that the employee may be absent for other reasons such as family-related leave, annual leave or self-isolation, particularly if the probationary period is six months.

Communication

Draw the probationary clause to your employee's attention. Note the date two weeks before probation should end so that you're not surprised. Speak to the employee regularly about the process and note those discussions. If you extend an employee’s probation period, do it in writing.

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