What’s the Reason for Probationary Periods?

Anonymous writes:
Why are there probationary periods after one gets hired? Is it legal for an employer to terminate one during this time without explanation? How can I avoid being let go before the probationary period is up?

The Career Doctor responds:
Not all employers have probationary periods but many do. These periods usually last from three to six months and are designed more to legally protect the employer but can also be a benefit to the employee. These probationary periods — to be fair — should apply to all new employees. Depending on the language — as in the sample below — employers can terminate an employee during this probationary period without reason
and without notice.
Here’s a sample description of one organization’s probationary period: “Each new employee will complete a period of “on-the-job” orientation. This probationary period provides an opportunity for the individual and the supervisor to assess suitability for interest in and performance of the position duties. It is also a period of adjustment to the requirements of the job and the company. At any time during this period either party may terminate employment without notice. Employment at XYZ Company is an “at will” relationship; either the employee or the employer may dissolve the employment relationship at any time with or without cause and with or without notice. Furthermore this probationary period may be extended at the discretion of the supervisor — with input from Human Resources — for up to three months.”
How can you avoid not getting terminated during this process? Do your job! Showcase your skills and abilities and prove yourself invaluable to your supervisor and to the company. One of the benefits of most probationary policies is that you get at least one detailed evaluation — designed to help you understand how you are doing — and assuming the evaluation is positive you may be able to use it to get new job responsibilities or a pay raise — or both.

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