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Probation for new employees

Probation is an initial period of employment that allows managers to assess the employee’s suitability for a role. A manager can end an employee’s appointment at any time during probation if the employee is unable to meet expectations.

Probation applies to employees who are new to the public service and are appointed to a permanent role under the Public Service Act 2008. It may also apply to employees re-starting employment after a break in service unless your chief executive waives this condition.

Probation does not apply to employees who are employed:

  • for temporary or casual engagements
  • from another agency or business area
  • as a senior executive and chief executive.

Probation is usually for 3 months. You can request a longer probation period if:

  • your employee agrees to it in writing before they start
  • you have not had enough time to assess your employee’s performance
  • it’s prescribed in your relevant employment award.

At the start of probation, onboard and induct your employee. This includes completing a performance and development agreement shortly after your employee commences.

Ensure your employee clearly understands the conduct and performance you and your agency expects of them.

Review your employee’s performance regularly against the performance and development agreement. Provide prompt, positive feedback and flag areas for improvement. You may need to provide additional support and training to assist them. Follow up with a record of your feedback in writing and provide a copy to the employee.

See Positive performance practices for more.

Performance or conduct that does not meet expectations

If an employee’s performance or conduct does not meet expectations during probation, address it promptly. This gives them time to improve. If they are unable to improve after regular feedback and appropriate support, you can end their employment prior to the end of their probation period.

See the Positive performance directive for more.

Before the end of the probation period, you must complete a structured review of your employee’s performance and conduct.

You can either confirm your employee’s appointment to the role, extend their probationary period, or end their employment.

Confirm appointment

If your employee has met the expectations for the role, confirm their appointment. See your intranet or speak to your HR team to find out how your agency does this.

Extend probation

If you have not had reasonable time to assess your employee’s performance and conduct, or they need more time to meet the expectations for the role, you can extend their probation period. You must tell your employee you intend to extend their probation before their probationary period ends. See your intranet or speak to your HR team to find out how your agency does this.

End employment

If your employee has not met the expectations for the role following feedback and support, you can end their employment.

You should ensure you have provided regular written feedback during the probation period and given the employee the opportunity to respond. Speak to your HR team before deciding to end employment during probation.

If the decision is made to end employment, you must provide the employee with written notice before probation ends.

Your employee cannot make an unfair dismissal claim if you end their employment during the probation period. See Section 315 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016.

Your employee can lodge:

Keep a record of your feedback and conversations about their work performance issues and what support was provided to help improve their performance. This will help your agency show there was cause for ending their employment early and appropriate support was provided.

See Positive management practices and the Positive performance management directive for more.

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Positively manage employees