Probation period dos and don’ts

Employees represent a valuable asset within any workplace. It is therefore critical to find the right person, not only with the right qualifications and experience, but who will also be compatible with the working environment and culture.
Implementing a probation period serves the purpose of enabling employers to evaluate whether an employee’s performance aligns with the required standards. The duration of this period is contingent upon the nature of the job, as the more complex the nature of the job is, the longer the period of probation will be. It is essential to incorporate the probation period into the employment contract, as the contract defines the terms and conditions agreed upon between the parties.

The dos of a probation period:

When instituting a period of probation, an employer has the following obligations:

  • Clearly communicate the employee’s probationary status;
  • Define the duration of the probation explicitly;
  • Establish reasonable benchmarks for performance;
  • Precisely outline and explain the performance standards demanded of the employee;
  • Regularly assess and monitor the employee’s performance against the predetermined standards;
  • Provide the employee with feedback regarding performance inadequacies;
  • Extend the opportunity to the employee to furnish additional information and offer their perspective on the situation;
  • Offer assistance, guidance, counselling, and training whenever necessary;
  • Follow the appropriate disciplinary or poor work performance procedures based on the prevailing circumstances.

The don’ts of a probation period:

Poor work performance is an ever-increasing challenge in the workplace and pertains to instances where an employee falls short of achieving and sustaining the employer’s established work performance criteria or standards, encompassing quality and quantity.

Even during a period of probation, an employer is never entitled to summarily terminate an employee’s employment, especially if the employee’s performance deviates from the anticipated standard. Such actions could potentially lead to allegations of unfair dismissal against the employer at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Labour regulations furnish explicit guidelines outlining how employers should navigate poor work performance cases. In the event that an employee remains incapable of reaching the mandated standard despite being provided with assistance and training, they are deemed “incapable,” permitting the employer to initiate disciplinary proceedings. It is imperative to recognise that an employer is absolutely prohibited from dismissing an employee without adhering to the required procedure. Every instance of dismissal must unfailingly uphold both procedural and substantive fairness.



Stay ahead with our comprehensive compliance questionnaire. We’ll help pinpoint any gaps, ensuring you operate within legal guidelines.