We all know probation periods allow employers to check if a new employee makes a good fit. It can also benefit an employee who discovers the organisations or job itself is not what they expected.

Sometimes, the company might need a little more time to assess an employee and decides to extend the probation period. It should set out in writing the reasons and if there are particular issues that need to be addressed.

Since the employment contract works both ways (it sets the expectation and responsibilities to both, the employee and the employer), my question is: can an employee extend their probation period, and if so - what is a legal ground for it and how to explain it properly?

Background story (not necessarily needed to answer the question I guess):

I was hired by a company as a junior developer, but my role shifted more into sort of a tech support (fixing printers, updating plugins for WordPress pages and so on), although this hasn't been discussed on my interview and it's not included in my contract and employee handbook as my responsibilities. Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against tech support, this is just not the career path I have chosen. I addressed the issue several times (in one on one meetings and emails) and every time received the same answer: they agree with me and would like to change it as soon as possible, by assigning me to the tasks that would be more suitable for me (and relevant to my contract and job description), but these promises were never followed up by any actions. My probation period comes to an end and I would like to extend it to check if the company indeed will change anything. If not, I would like to be able to leave the company on shorter notice (one week during the probation period, 8 weeks after).

  • 1
    Of course you can ask (just like with any other addendum to your contract), but you should decide for how long and what you'll do if they decline or if they accept but things don't change or things only change for the duration of your extended probation. An employee can probably also refuse an employer extending probation, but there's an implication that refusing will lead to termination. It sounds like the real problem here is that they're making vague promises with no clear deadline - at some point you have to accept that they just don't care enough to actually change things. – Bernhard Barker Jan 16 '18 at 12:03
  • 2
    @IamSoNotListening I explained it in the background story. :) If the company will not delivered promise and we will not start addressing solution to the problem, I would like to be able to leave the company on shorter notice. – Raf M. Jan 16 '18 at 12:43
  • Does your contract say anything about your probation period being "X months, with consideration to increase it for Insert Reason Here"? – user34587 Jan 16 '18 at 12:46
  • @Kozaky It does indeed! Contract suggest that it can be extended (or employment can be terminated) if I would be incapable of carrying out or unsuitable for the job. Do you think I could use this clause other way around by extension? – Raf M. Jan 16 '18 at 12:55
  • You can't use that clause the way you're thinking - if you count as being incapable or unsuitable is entirely at the employers discretion as is whether they choose to exercise the either the extending probation or dismissal options. Before the conditions are met to increase the notice period you can obviously chose to resign under your existing notice requirements but you don't need any reason for that. "I resign" is enough. – motosubatsu Jan 16 '18 at 13:08

While it would be highly unusual I can't think of anything that would actually prevent it as "Probation periods" are a concept that only exists as an agreement between the company and employee - so in theory the arrangement could be extended at the request of the employee if the employer agrees. This last part is fairly significant since it means that you have no inherant legal right to extend this without their consent.

Ordinarily I'd advise against such a move as it would send a very clear signal that you had one foot out of the door and were likely to leave, and would instead suggest that it's a much safer option to keep quiet and then take your chances with being able to negotiate a shorter notice if and when you need to resign. However given that you have alread been having a dialog with them regarding the duties they are giving you that might be a way in of saying:

As we're discussed before I'm not keen on the current duties I'm being assigned - and while I understand that these things can take some time to change around and I really want to stay here and show you what I can do in a more development-orientated capacity I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of the longer notice period that will kick in after my probation while this is still an issue. With that in mind would it be possible to delay increasing my notice period to the 8 weeks until such time as we've been able to get my tasks more in line with my job description?

It's a risky strategy - very risky. Since it still basically amounts to a polite ultimatum that if they don't sort themselves out and get you doing the job you signed on for that you will look to leave. This exposes you to the risk that they will choose to let you go instead but if you are in the position where you'd rather risk being unemployed rather than continue on in the role with unwanted duties then it might be worth doing. After all if they choose to let you go instead that speaks volumes about their sincerity in their promises then do you want to be there anyway? But obviously you may not be in a position where you can afford to be without work while you job hunt - and of course finding a new job is always easier when you already have one.

Personally I probably wouldn't take that road - and instead I would push firmly for something in writing regarding timescales for them getting you working on your intended duties. And if the worst comes to the worst and they won't do that or fail to live up to it then I'd start job hunting with the 8 weeks notice and try to reduce that as much as possible in the event that I got another offer. But then I'm quite risk averse!

| improve this answer | |
  • Couldn't you just work while you find a job? Why are you bounded by the employer where you need to be on a "probation period" to secure a new job? Just look for a new job while working at the job you're at. Why can't it be that simple? – Dan Jan 16 '18 at 13:54
  • @Dan Well it kind of is.. I'm assuming that the OP is concerned about the longer notice period placing him at a disadvantage if he decides to search for a new job (some employers won't be willing/able to wait that long) – motosubatsu Jan 16 '18 at 14:05
  • @motosubatsu Precisely! Thank you. :) And also thank you for your well thought out answer. You're an absolute star! – Raf M. Jan 16 '18 at 15:12
  • @RafM. Hope it all works out for you! :) – motosubatsu Jan 16 '18 at 15:16

No you cant do this in the UK the probationary period is totally within the employers control subject to the legal safe guards which are there to protect the employee.

You could ask the employer to extend probation for 1 or 2 months but you run the risk of the employer have you fail probation and you are out of a job - that might be tricky to explain when you go to sign on for benefits.

I suspect that you are not originally from the UK and are unfamiliar with the legal set up for professional jobs (which a developer is considered) having 1 month or greater is the norm (having longer notice periods is also part of the unwritten class structure ie only low or unskilled workers have short notice periods).

Having said that in the uk you have much less rights in the first two years of employment so if you do find a better job within 2 years you might be able to negotiate pay in lieu of notice and leave sooner - that will depend on employer.

I would advise against trying to extend your probation period you will been seen as that odd person who doesn't fit in and run the risk of losing your job.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    "the probationary period is totally within the employers control" - do you have any reference or justification for saying this? I'd agree that it would be unusual and possibly difficult for an employee to make changes to the probation period, but I imagine there's nothing that's actually preventing this, apart from the fact that employers generally have more leverage (because losing one's job is generally a bigger deal than losing an employee). Do you have any reference for having reduced rights during the first 2 years? – Bernhard Barker Jan 16 '18 at 12:19
  • 1
    You do have reduced rights during the first 2 years employment in the UK - but the only real difference that's relevant here is that they aren't obliged to give you the reason for a dismissal and you aren't eligible to claim for Unfair Dismissal (outside of the standard protected characteristics of course). They are still bound by the employment contract and must still give you the contractual notice (or statutory notice whichever is longer) barring Gross Misconduct of course. – motosubatsu Jan 16 '18 at 12:55

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .