Probationary/Orientation Periods

I am getting confilciting information about having a probation or orientation period. Some Managers want the ablitiy to term prior to 90 days based on the "not a good fit" rule.

we have progessive discipline normally shouldnt we apply that to our newer employees as well?


  • 13 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Probationary periods are a relic, especially if you are in an "At Will" state. I've argued for years that they do more harm than good by establishing an arbitrary timeline with no basis in law, and providing a perception that within 90 days, you don't have to do your job as a manager and you can still get rid of someone for whatever reason.

    Tell your managers to follow the progressive discipline process, and there will be no need for a probationary period. If they don't follow the process, then even an established probationary period may not protect you.
  • I have mixed feelings on these as well, for many of the reasons Frank mentioned. Our company still has a 90 day introductory period, and a sort of modified disciplinary process for those still in their introductory period.

    Despite my own feelings about it, I can't say we've ever had a problem with the intro period, and in fact have terminated a few for failing to pass the intro period, whether at 90 days or before.
  • We make it very clear in our Employee Handbook that we do not have a probatrionary period. We do have a 90 day Review where the only options are satisfactory or unsatisfactory. We follow the same progressive discipline steps with new hires as we do everyone else. I have never understood how we could go up to someone on their 89 day and say, Sorry, it is just not working out and this be the first time they were made aware that their performance was poor enough to warrant termination of employment.
  • We do still have a 90-day orientation period, but I think it's mostly so we don't have to hand a departing employee a check for accrued vacation time.
  • In many (most?) states you would still owe them.
  • We don't start accruing until after 90 days.
  • We also have a 90 day introductory period. Our attorney advised us to do away with "probationary" language. We are in an "at will" state and have progressive discipline. Our handbook states "All new employees are subject to a 90 calendar day introductory period. This period is a time for you to learn what the company expects of you and for the company to assess your performance." Additionally, benefits are not available, including paid holidays, until an employee completes the 90 day introductory period.
  • I'm a proponent of eliminating conditions or guidelines that do not have any positive purpose. Can anyone provide an example of one positive purpose of an introductory or probationary period that isn't already provided by your state's At Will doctrine, a proper progressive discipline process, and your benefits accrual policy? If you can, you'll be the first.
  • I think it is all in what you see and expect in that 90 day period. If we hire someone to process paperwork on the computer, we expect a certain level of competence on the computer before we start. However, we don't expect that level of competence for the process itself. Having a 90 day or 60 day period, puts everyone on the same page as far as expectations go. The new employee, the manager, HR (in fact, everyone involved) understands that the employee better be up to snuff before the 90 days is up. That would be true even if we didn't call it an introductory 90 day period, but this way it is much clearer to all involved.

    Here, we pay employees for holidays even if it is in the week they start. Our reasoning is that employees don't control the holidays, and though it can be negotiated, we are really in control of their start date too. We do not, though, pay PTO during the introductory period. We want them here learning our processes and our culture. I believe that with our current society norms, if we allowed new employees to take time off early in the relationship, they would soon think they can take time off all the time. We want them to understand that we hired them to be here and do their job. We also don't want them to end up taking longer than 90 days to learn it because they were out on vacation.

    We do make allowances on a case by case basis, but in general we use the 90 days for the employee to learn how to fit in and to prove themselves. I think it is a good thing to have, as long as you don't treat it like an unbreakable law. I can't say I will always think this way, because times and cultures change. But right now, in my opinion, I just listed two positive purposes. Frank, I am sure you have a response....
  • We use a form that is called "New Employee Progress Report". It goes to the Department Manager once a month for 3, 4 5 or 6 months depending on the position. This way, the manager and the employee sit down and discuss the progress they are making in the training process and any goals that have been achieved.
  • Although I agree that in at-will states, probationary/introductory periods are of little use - especially if you don;t have proper language stating that completing the 90 day marks gives the employee no additonal rights or guarantees of contiued employment. But to Frank's question about any redeeming value of them, the only one that comes to mind is that many states deny unemployment benefits to employees terminated durinng the probationary period, ONLY IF THERE IS A POLICY COMMUNICATED TO THE EMPLOYEE THAT THEY ARE A PROBATIONARY EMPLOYEE. Go figue. Didn't say it was a rational reason, but it has helped us win many unemployment cases in those states.
  • In Missouri, if you terminate the employee in the first 27 days, you are off the hook... whether you have a probationary period or not.
  • Talk about timing...

    A competitor to M Lee Smith talks about probationary periods on their website today. Their conclusion? If you are a non-union shop in an at-will state, there is no benefit to a probationary period - and if it's poorly done, it can cause some real headaches.
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