It is very common practice amongst Australian employers (and most employers world-wide), to employ staff on an initial 3 month probationary period. In some countries, the probationary period can be up to six months, but this would not be a prudent action for employers to take in Australia as employees become entitled to claim for unfair dismissal after a 6 month qualifying period. This is why most Australian probationary periods will be 3 months long.
The probationary period is a period of time during which the employer can assess your performance and make a final decision on your suitability to the role. Employees should actively manage their probationary period to maximise their chance of success and securing permanent employment. This article describes several steps you can take to manage your probationary period and 3 month review effectively.
This may come as a surprise but one of the first steps you could take is during the contract negotiation. If, after having read the contract, you notice it has a probationary period, you could ask the employer to remove it. They don’t have to do this, but it has been known to happen, but you would need a very good reason for them to consider removing the probationary clause from your contract. Good reasons may be that you are relocating yourself and family long distance, or you are resigning from a very secure job to take up this new position, and that you consider a probationary period to be an uncomfortable level of risk in the circumstances.
Having joined the company under a probationary period, the first thing to do is read the terms of the probationary period. It should read something like:
‘Your employment is subject to a probationary period of 3 months from the commencement date of this agreement. This probationary period does not affect any qualifying period as set out by law. During this period your performance and suitability for the position will be assessed. Subject to the results of this assessment at the conclusion of the probationary period, a decision will be reached as to whether your probation has been completed successfully and your employment continued.’
If your manager does not approach you about your probationary period in the first two weeks, you should approach him/her yourself and ask for a copy of the job description and details of the performance criteria you will be assessed against during the probationary period. It is important that you get this information within the first week or two in order to maximise your chance of successfully completing the qualifying period. This means that you know what is expected of you and you can then focus your behaviour towards meeting your performance objectives. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification of any performance objectives you are unclear on. Ensure you keep notes of your performance and any barriers or obstacles you have faced.
While some organisations may do this automatically, it is a good idea to request a 6 week interim review with your manager to check that everything is on track. The aim of this meeting is to find out how you are performing against the criteria, so you can set about making any required improvements during the remaining six weeks of your probationary review. If you need any assistance from your manager or are facing obstacles raise this with your manager who should be able to provide you with the support required to help you meet your performance goals. Also, by engaging proactively in the interim review process, you will be demonstrating initiative and conscientiousness that will reflect well on you during your review.
And finally, to the review itself. If you have followed all this advice so far you will certainly be maximising your chance of successfully passing the review. Typically the review meeting will be like an appraisal and your manager will assess your performance against the specific objectives that were set for you.
Earlier in this piece, we mentioned that you should keep a track of your performance and note any barriers you have faced. During your review, your manager should give you an opportunity to speak about your performance and this is therefore the time for you to justify your performance in the most positive light and also to make the manager aware of any obstacles that impeded you and also what you tried to do about it. This will mean that you have presented the strongest case possible for your successful completion of the probationary period.