Although there are no firm probation period extension laws, if probation periods are extended without prior agreement, employers will be in breach of contract.

It is illegal if an employer extends probation periods for these protected reasons:

  • Ethnicity, religion or cultural background
  • Gender, age or marital status

Probationary periods enable both employees and employers to assess the suitability of the role, as well as other factors such as general conduct, performance and attendance.

Can My Employer Extend My Probation Period Without Notice?

The right to extend an employee’s probation period must be set out in writing from the start of their employment. However, if the contractual probation period clause does not state the right to extend, employers may seek an employee’s consent and agreement to extend it at the end of the probation period.

Other options of how to move forward at the end of the probation include:

  • Confirming the employee’s employment
  • Dismissing the employee

In order to avoid this situation, a sound contract should be written up stating the right to extend a probation period. Written records will automatically provide evidence that employers are following an employee’s contract.

What Should Be Included in My Contract About My Probation Period?

An employment contract should determine the terms and conditions under which a new employee will work, including the probation period. There is no firm law that limits the extension of probation periods; the specific terms need to be set out in writing clearly.

  • Length of Extension: It should state the date of which the extension will start after the probation period and the date of when it will end.
  • Benchmarks: It should state the targets or objectives the employee is required to achieve by the end of the extension to determine employment or dismissal.
  • Extra Resources: It should state if any further support or training will be included in the probation period extension.
  • End of Probation: It should state that the employee will not be deemed to have passed the probation period if they haven’t met the required targets and will therefore be terminated. The employee should receive written confirmation if they have passed the probation period.
  • Reason for Extension: It should state the reasoning behind the extension, so the extension is justified.

Reasons for a Probation Period Extension

There are many different reasons behind extending a probation period, including if the employers believe the employee needs more time to:

  • Improve performance and demonstrate capabilities
  • Learn a new skills which will further their capabilities
  • Meet the targets required of them
  • Better attendance or punctuality

Another reason would be if either the employee or employer takes a long leave of absence during the probation period and therefore needs more time to meet the review criteria. If you’re looking for expert advice on how to correctly extend a probation period or you’re an employee looking for support with a probation period extension, our employment law and HR experts are here to help. Get in touch with our friendly advisors today.