Employment references for prospective employees can be great indicators of employee skills or characteristics and they should always be thoroughly vetted. However, for various reasons, they may not always give a true and present reflection of the candidate or they may reflect what the employee’s capabilities were at a different time and this may not necessarily match their current skills. References can also depict suitability for a role that is dissimilar to the one being filled. For this reason it is advisable for employers to engage new members based on multiple evaluations to protect themselves and to ensure not to waste any time or resources on someone who is not adequately equipped for the role.

An applicant’s cover letter and curriculum vitae, as well as the resulting interview(s), can tell an employer a lot about the potential new employee – it is not uncommon, however, to ask shortlisted candidates to perform competency-based assessments or aptitude tests so that the employer can acquire a full picture of the candidate’s abilities and determine whether or not he or she is the right fit for the vacancy. It is customary for employers to hire new members on a probationary period of 6 months or a term not dissimilar to this.

This probationary period does not prejudice the Company’s right to dismiss in accordance with the notice provisions contained in the employee’s individual statement of main terms of employment, or without notice for reasons of gross misconduct, should this be necessary.

This period should be used by the employer to fully assess the employee’s work performance and establish suitability. If the work performance is not up to the required standard or the employee is considered to be unsuitable the employer should either take swift remedial action or terminate the employment, without recourse to the disciplinary procedure.

At the end of the probationary period the employee should again be reassessed. If he or she has not reached the required standard the employer should, at their discretion, either extend the probationary period in order that remedial action can be taken or terminate the contract of
employment.

The probationary period should not in any case exceed eleven months in total.  The employee should receive notice of the Company’s intention to extend the probationary period before or at the end of the initial 6 month probationary period.

A clause should allow that any continuous period of absence of four weeks or more would suspend the probationary period until the employee’s return to work.

To avoid any risk of discrimination, policies (like the probationary period outlined above) should be fair and consistent and should apply to all new employees throughout the Company.  In disciplinary proceedings, when dealing with employees on probationary periods, progressive steps can be skipped but it is a common misconception that fair procedures and natural justice need not be adhered to during the probationary period.

The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997-2007 will not apply to the dismissal of an employee during a period at the beginning of employment when he/she is on probation or undergoing training provided that:

•the contract of employment is in writing

•the duration of probation or training is one year or less (including annual leave) and is specified in the contract

It is important to bear in mind that this exclusion from the Acts will not apply if the dismissal results from trade union membership or activity, pregnancy related matters, or entitlements under the maternity protection, parental leave, adoptive leave and carer’s leave legislation.

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